My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Let me get two things out of the way first off, one it will a spoiler-filled review (granted I’m late to the party with this series) and two, it should be noted I don’t give out many five star reviews (I think this is my second all year. I didn’t even give one to Neil Gaiman’s new one). Out of all the books I’ve read (well over a hundred so far this year), only a handful of characters have stayed with me and Roan and Paris are among them.
I knew from book one that I wouldn’t have Paris for long, and said so in my review of that book. In Ms. Speed’s world building for her infected cat virus people, the virus is a vicious bastard that eventually shortens the life. Tiger strains, like Paris, don’t last long. He had long beaten the odds and I was almost surprised he survived book one. By book two, the tiger has taken its toll. Paris and Roan have married in Canada, and Roan is dealing with his fear of losing Paris throughout the book. Paris has taken on the appearance of someone with a chronic illness at its end-stage with all the morbidities that entails, weight loss, fatigue, somnolence, loss of appetite extra. Roan is even allowing work to slack because he’s afraid each day is going to be the last.
Roan gets a case from a recurring character, someone he’s helped before, Matt who has pulled his life together after rehab for his addictions. A friend from rehab, Thora, has been kidnapped and her wealthy family is turning a blind eye to it as she’s the anorexic addict family embarrassment. Only her Aunt Hannah is interesting in finding her. When she turns up dead and the witness who saw her being loaded into the van dies soon after talking to Roan and Paris, the heat on the investigation turns up (and down as far as the police are concerned, her death being listed as a suicide).
While Roan is busy working the puzzle out - and taking on a few cat-related issues for the police- Paris is putting his affairs in order. He knows he’s dying. He knows Roan will not do well when he does. His great fear is that Roan will disappear completely inside the lion. Paris enlists the help of Roan’s few friends, and, in Diego’s case, past lover to be there for Roan when Paris is gone. So there is definitely this river of sadness that rolls through the novel.
Roan is thrown a life line, a little ray of hope when a doctor who helped raise him, such as he was raised inside the facility that dealt with children born with the virus, calls him to be part of an experiment. She isn’t surprised he’s getting control of the lion outside of the viral cycle. Roan only wants to do this if they’ll take Paris, too. He fears that Paris is too sick to do it, however, no matter how much the doctors might want a tiger strain in their test group. If anything would have made me bump this review down a star it was this subplot because it seemed to get forgotten (then again I read the bulk of it waiting to hear the bad news about my own blood work for my own chronic illness and I might have missed it.) I guess that they assumed Paris was too sick and Roan refuses to do it. At one point he deletes a message unheard from her and I’m wondering if that will be back to bite him in the ass in book three.
The mystery resolves itself nicely. Matt and Diego become much more fleshed out as recurring (since I assume I’ll see them again since Matt thinks he’s in love with Roan and Diego is an ex). That left me facing last chapter. I knew it would be painful. I really didn’t want to read it because if I didn’t Paris wouldn’t die. But that also means I never move on to the next book. It was beautifully done and, of course, I cried. I enjoyed Paris immensely and I will miss him. It doesn’t help that I lost three people to suicide this year and one of which took his life because he simply couldn’t live with his illness any more. I understand that. I know what it’s like to be at the end of your endurance as your body betrays you. I have lived with a potentially fatal chronic illness for years. I can relate to Paris’s sheer exhaustion of having to deal with it. Didn’t make me cry any less though. I’m looking forward to the next book because I know it will be both heart rending and very good. This is a book all fans of this genre (and the mystery and the urban fantasy ones) should put on their reading list.
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