Rating: 4.75 stars
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“In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.”
When Roan gets a call from the police about a shifted Infected at Club Damage, that there are injured people and the cat is cornered in the club bathroom, he heads out to investigate and take down the cat. But almost immediately Roan realizes there is a larger problem than just an infected cat on the loose. The cat is dying and smells off; it has almost a chemical aroma to it. Then another cat shifts out of schedule and dies and then another. The autopsy reveals a chemical in their bloodstream, a new drug that forces the Infected people to shift early and die. Roan and the police force realize that someone has targeted all Infected’s and it’s up to Roan to find that person before they have a wave of cat deaths throughout the city.
Holden is also having a very bad day. He is beaten up by one of his johns and needs Roan’s help to get back to his condo. But his john is not finished with him yet and an already anguished Roan takes on the role of an avenger, something that is happening in greater frequency. Because the infected population is not only being targeted by a drug pusher, a serial killer is hunting them down as well. As Roan tries to find the supplier of the poisoned drugs and track the killer with Holden’s help, he also has to deal with increasing migraines and the fact that the lion just might be taking over. It’s almost enough to make Roan want to die if the virus would let him.
Lesser Evils is the sixth book in the Infected series that remains one of my all time favorites. This is quite simply a mesmerizing saga at every level starting with the central premise of an out of control virus. The virus is spreading throughout the human population with the disastrous effect of changing those infected into beings no longer completely human before killing them. The origin of the virus is unknown, although the speculations include the most favored “secret government agency trying to build a super soldier” one. But it could also include a feline virus not unlike the avian or swine bug run amuck. I love the idea of a nebulous background for the virus, although it remains to be seen if the author leaves it this way or has something totally different planned for us and Roan. Trust me, it would be just like Andrea Speed to have some utterly confounding explanation just lying in wait for us in future books.
The Infected series also includes some of my favorite characters, again starting with the heart of the series, Roan McKitchen. He is an Infected child, born of an Infected mother instead of someone infected after birth. Roan is also the only known child to not only survive but thrive with the virus inside of him. But thriving physically is not the same as surviving emotionally or mentally and Roan continues to battle both his emotions and mental state as the virus mutates within him. And it is this constantly changing state that Roan finds himself in that speaks to so many fundamental questions within us. What does it mean to be human? Is who we are internally, in our mind and soul tied to who we are physically? If who you are physically is no longer within the realm of human specifications, does that outsider status remove you from the human condition and people all around you to the extent you can’t relate to them any more? Question after important question is brought up but the answers are constantly evolving as is Roan. I love the high level of complexity here and the fact that with each book, who and what Roan is becoming more bewildering and convoluted as well.
Just as there are no “reasonably” simple human beings, you won’t find them within these pages either. This includes Holden Fox, another favorite. Holden started out as a high priced hooker but now seems to be evolving into Roan’s investigative partner and fellow vigilante when necessary. He is not just familiar with the dark underbelly of society, but is a top denizen there. His outlook is a needed contrast to Dylan, Roan’s artist husband and part time bartender. Dylan, another beautifully layered portrait, loves Roan and is trying to accept the changes he sees in him. Dylan also is in the unpleasant role of being the one man who can never quite measure up to Roan’s true love, Paris Lehane, and now must live with a ghost always present in their relationship. And then there are all the characters that circle around Roan, from the hockey players (Grey, Scott, Tank…all memorable) to Seb and Drop Kick, the police officers Roan works with. There is no such thing as a cardboard character in a Andrea Speed novel.
Lesser Evils tackles several problems at once, much the same as the other stories. One strand that is running through the last few books is that there seems to be a mysterious organization, perhaps one with white supremacists, that is targeting Infecteds, trying to wipe them out by various methods, in this case by poisoning a favored club drug. Only those infected by the virus die and die horribly. So Roan, the police, FBI and others are trying to track the source of the drug to its manufacturer in a race that also includes a antidote as more and more die on the streets. In addition, someone is hunting the Infecteds like big game and the police, with a couple of exceptions, don’t seem to be taking this as seriously as they would if the serial killer was hunting “people.” This infuriates Roan as he starts to feel like he must take the “savior” role he has always avoided.
As Speed pulls all these threads together, she also weaves Roan’s torment over his changing physical and mental state into the pattern as well. The lion inside is coming out more and more and Roan is struggling with his emotions and temper to the point he thinks Dylan is in danger. We feel his anger, the level of his depression and even his rage at those who remain unconcerned and removed from the plight of the Infected. The author forces us to think about what makes us who we are as Roan loses the certainly we take for granted. The virus also seems to be protecting him in startling ways even as it is morphing him into something the world has never seen before. And with increasing dread, we “hear” as the government starts to talk about making Infecteds register themselves, which sounds like a precursor to concentration camps, for their own good of course. As I stated, so many elements are in play here, and the future for all is becoming increasingly muddied. Especially for Roan, our most reluctant of heroes but for which race?
For even as Dylan reminds Roan that he is still human, and we know he is not, and Holden abjures Roan to renounce the human race and accept his non human status, Roan in his anguished, drugged state tries to find a median ground that probably does not exist. And we are there with him for every angst ridden step he takes in the journey before him and the rest of the world. And that is the cherry on top. The tantalizing glimpses that Speed allows us to see along Roan’s path. It’s these small windows that open up into a possible future for Roan and the other Infecteds that give me shivers and make me undeniably one of her biggest fans even when she leaves me and all the other readers hanging as she does here in Lesser Evils. Yes, even as we find out the new mutations the virus has caused in Roan, it also has a debilitating effect on him that turns into a cliffhanger at the end. *Head desk*. Roan pulls out all the deepest emotions in the reader because he is so well crafted, that he becomes real to us which makes the cliffhanger at the end so frustrating because we need to know what happens next. Sigh.
As I have commented on how much I dislike cliffhangers in other books, so that is the reason my head pounded when I found it here. So as we wait for Dreamspinner Press to bring out the next in the series and for this situation with Roan in the hospital to be resolved, I will placate myself by going back to the beginning and starting to read the series all over again, looking for new clues I might have missed, and uncovering elements the author may have hidden away. So even with the dreaded cliffhanger in place, grab this one up. Or if you are new to the series, go back to the beginning and become acquainted with one of the most complex and enthralling characters to cross a page.
Andrea Speed also compiles a playlist for each book. They can be found at her website In Absentia. Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the saga:
- Infected: Prey
- Life After Death
- Lesser Evils
Cover: Cover by Anne Cain is just magnificent. The cover art is available for download as screensavers at Andrea Speed’s website.