CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 41. . . .June 22, 2012
What was once a happy group of best friends has been shattered since the brutal murder of Mac’s best friend, Amy. In a string of horrifying werewolf attacks on humans, Amy’s senseless death has left a cloud over their small town of Hemlock. Everyone is afraid to go out at night, people who once supported werewolf rights have changed their minds, and paranoia runs rampant. Everything about life in her small town is changing, and Mac can barely register the differences as she is consumed with thoughts of Amy and how much she misses her. The change is especially evident in Amy’s grief-stricken boyfriend, Jason, who blames himself for Amy’s death – he wasn’t there to save or protect her. Their mutual friend Kyle is also ridden with guilt as he pushed Amy away when she tried to contact him the night she died. Kyle has been behaving strangely since Amy’s attack, and although she understands how he feels after losing their mutual friend, Mac still can’t quite put her finger on what is so different about him.
It seems that the frequency of werewolf attacks is on the rise as the dreaded Lupine syndrome, the highly contagious virus that changes people into werewolves, becomes more and more common. The government struggles to decide how to fight the outbreak, and, in its inaction, a group called the Trackers has formed, a somewhat government-supported movement of werewolf-hunting vigilantes whose sole purpose is to ferret out and capture people who have been infected. Those captured are then locked behind guarded fences in internment camps where they are kept safe but separate from the general population. People disagree as to the ethics of such camps, and no one knows the real conditions in which these people live. When the Trackers arrive in Hemlock to investigate Amy’s death and to try to locate the feared white werewolf that is supposedly behind the attacks, residents of Hemlock are forced to declare which side of the debate they’re on. The Tracker motto is “Hunt or be hunted,” and their tactics of coercion and intimidation influence people to either join their side or get out of the way.
Plagued by grief over Amy’s death, Jason vows revenge on all werewolves no matter the cost. He gets noticed by Darby, the Tracker leader, who makes Jason his new protégé and anti-werewolf campaign poster-boy. Not only is Mac dealing with the grief of losing her best friend in such a violent way, but now the disturbing transformation she sees in Jason is enough to put her over the edge. Determined to find out how her friend died, Mac takes matters into her own hands and is soon in over her head. Corruption of police officials, unrecorded or missing evidence, and the feeling that her two friends, Jason and Kyle, aren’t telling her everything makes matters worse. When Mac starts having life-like nightmares where Amy’s ghost haunts her, she is determined more than ever to find out the truth.
The first in a planned trilogy, Kathleen Peacock’s Hemlock is an exciting blend of mystery, thriller, action, and supernatural that will have wide appeal to fans of these individual genres. The different layers of the story weave together beautifully as readers are led through a tangled web of lies, intrigues, cover-ups, and conspiracies. Not only are Jason and Kyle not telling her the truth of their own parts in Amy’s death, but Mac also learns that she didn’t know her best friend as well as she thought she did. As she pushes to find the truth about Amy’s death, Mac puts herself in dangerous situations that she sometimes barely makes it out of alive. When the Trackers begin to notice her investigations, the menacing and threatening nature of this group really starts to come to light. At first, it seems that Mac is the only one to notice it, but as she discovers the truth of how many werewolves are living in secret in her own town, Mac realizes that there’s more to the Lupine virus than just the black and white “us versus them” attitude portrayed in the national media.
Teen readers who gravitate toward mystery and thriller stories will find a lot to like in Hemlock. Although the cover art of the book, with its dark brooding background, swirling text, and girl in a dress, screams supernatural, the way that Peacock has depicted werewolves in the text is actually more scientifically-based rather than wholly supernatural. That being said, teen fans of the recently popular werewolf stories will certainly enjoy this read and be eager for the next book, though it might not have as much heart-thudding romance as they would like. Hemlock would be an excellent choice for collections where supernatural and urban fantasy stories circulate well, or where collectors have limited budgets and need books that are strong across several genres. Give this book to teens who like a little more mystery and thriller in their supernatural books or who crave supernatural stories with strong and capable female protagonists.
Amy Dawley is the teen librarian in Prince George, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.