Dreadful Skin by Cherie Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I am so glad that I found out about this book. It was just what I was looking for. This book is an excellent journey into the heart of darkness in the American West, with a supernatural twist. And to top it off, the protagonist is a woman of unquenchable will and determination.
Irish nun, Sister Eileen, is small, but her spirit is tremendous. She has made it her mission to track and end a vicious werewolf disguised as a man, Jack. She's followed his trail of rampage and blood over several continents. Never giving up, never relenting. Until her mission has been accomplished.
This book is told in three parts, each with a different sort of narrative that effectively tells the story. I couldn't hardly stop reading this book. I was enthralled. The final showdown in the middle of the desert in a town on the Texas-Mexican border held me breathless. This is the kind of horror that sneaks up on you. You don't see scene after scene of rampage and gore. Instead, you come to feel for the narrators, with no guarantee of their survival. And when some don't make it, you feel the loss with the same enormity that Sister Eileen feels.
Ms. Priest could not have created a better protagonist. This tiny, fierce woman of God couldn't have endeared herself more to me. She's real. Her faith might be shaken, but never broken. This endless hunt has hardened her in the ways that makes her even more of a weapon against a creature of cruel, soulless evil.
This quote shows some of her mettle:
"I've heard it said that God made all men, but Samuel Colt made all men equal.
We'd see what Mr. Colt could do for a woman." Enough said.
Werewolf fiction has become one of my favorite genres. I continue to search for good stories that provide a new vista to this arena of supernatural fiction. Coupled with a tale in the Old West, I was overjoyed with this novel. This setting fits so well with this tale of the hunter and the hunted. Even more powerful a touch is the fact that the hunter is a seemingly frail and mild-mannered woman, a nun of all things. But the prey will realize that he should not have underestimated this woman hunting him so relentlessly. This powerful story is told via a distinctive narrative that consists of various narrators speaking in some parts, and written letters and diary entries in others; and it has a realism and gritty vitality that spoke to me.
Short, yet powerful beyond words, I cannot recommend this story enough to readers who are looking for a horror story in an atypical, and underutilized setting. Actually, it's difficult to classify it as a horror story. Truly it's a story about humanity, and the force of will that drives people to fight unwinnable battles. Because our natures as humans don't allow us to easily give in. We fight because we must. When it ended, I took a deep breath and savored the experience. Highly recommended.
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