As he brings back his favorite "enigmalogist," Dr. Jeremy Logan, Child (The Third Gate, 2012, etc.) adds DNA manipulation to a prehistoric legend to create a very modern werewolf.
Seeking isolation to finish a paper, history professor Logan has taken temporary residence at Cloudwater, an artists' colony in the isolated Adirondack State Park. On his first day, Logan hears from Randall Jessup, a former Yale classmate who's now a senior officer in New York's Division of Forest Protection. There have been ugly deaths in the forest—bodies shredded, torn limb from limb—and Jessup asks Logan to investigate, knowing that he studies "phenomena beyond the bounds of regular science." It doesn’t take long before Logan senses a "terrible wrongness," and he soon meets an independently wealthy researcher with two doctorates who’s experimenting in his own secret laboratory and later encounters an isolated Deliverance-variety backwoods clan feared by locals. The researcher, symbolically named Feverbridge, has been puttering away in a lost-in-the-woods lab equipped with everything from a "UV transilluminator" to a "capillary gel DNA sequencer," driven by hubris and enabled by his beautiful scientist daughter. Littered with observations about things like "imaginal discs," air ion counters, and EM detectors, the narrative bounces from cliché to cliché—a state trooper who intends to solve the matter with assault rifles, a reclusive paroled ex-murderer suffering from mental illness, and a poet living a Walden-like existence. Child creates a perfectly creepy ambiance, and his dialogue and descriptions are yeomanlike, but it’s difficult to invest much emotion in the characters.
Mixing timeless legends of lycanthropy into a Jekyll-and-Hyde dynamic won't be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s enough reading fun to while away an afternoon.