Years back I read a book by Whitley Strieber called Wolfen, about a couple of NYPD detectives battling it out with giant wolves. Greg Lamberson's Frenzy Way kind of reminded me of that, at least starting out, since it involves NYPD detectives battling it out with werewolves. I didn't really enjoy the Strieber novel a whole lot, mainly because it played out like a police procedural with some horror elements thrown in. As I started reading Frenzy Way, I wondered if I was in for more of the same.
Short answer: no, I wasn't.
See, I'm not big on police procedural stories, at least the ones that feel like lost episodes of Law & Order or CSI. What I've sampled from the genre usually focuses on the tools of the trade (the techniques and technology), rather than the trade itself (the conflict and the intrigue). With my preconceived notions of what this book would be like, I had my fingers crossed the werewolves (one of my favorite monsters) could steal the show and drive the story.
Thankfully, that turned out to be the case. After a few chapters that had a heckuva lot of lingo and procedure on the part of Captain Mace and his investigators, the book livened up considerably with a genuine werewolf stalking the streets of New York and racking up a bit of a hit list. Mace, a celebrity cop in the wake of busting a famed serial killer, is brought on to an especially gruesome murder investigation surrounding a university professor who has been attacked and decapitated--and a bloody message left on the wall with the word "skinwalker." From there, what is already considered a career-killer of a case by Mace and others on the force gets even worse, as more murders occur by the killer, and more and more evidence points towards a wolfman.
The book plays out in very cinematic fashion, starting out as that straight detective mystery, then swerving into a built of a thriller as the killer emerges, and then to an outright action-horror onslaught leading into the climax. The characters take a while to shine, with even the villain getting a chance to do a lot more than twirl his proverbial mustache. The mythos involving the werewolves, the multicultural aspects especially, and a centuries old conflict with a Catholic sect of guardians really added depth to the story, too.
For me, this was one of those books that gets better as it goes along. I suppose all books should do that, but some that get off to a bit of an underwhelming start never find their footing. The Frenzy Way definitely finds its footing--or rather its claws.