Pros: Gorgeous take on werewolves, Gifted mortals, and spirits
Cons: Slight delay getting oriented to the world if you’re new to it
Rating: 5 out of 5
Eileen Wilks’s Mortal Sins is apparently book five of a series, and if it’s your first visit, I guarantee that you’ll feel a little lost at first. It’s worth it, however, to hang on for that start in order to read what comes next.
Wilks’s take on werewolves—or lupi—has its own feel, and definitely didn’t leave me feeling like I was reading “just another werewolf book” (a serious danger these days when there are so many of them). It has a feeling of tradition and mysticism to it that many of the others lack. Werewolves and people with mystical Gifts are still rather new to the public consciousness and occupy an uneasy place within society. Many of them still haven’t “outed” themselves at all. Women can’t shapeshift, causing some gender inequality issues among the lupi that humans tend to misunderstand. Add to that the fact that it’s against tradition for a werewolf to marry, or sleep exclusively with one woman, due to low birth rates, and romance seems to have the odds stacked against it.
Despite that, FBI agent Lily Yu is in love with Rule Turner, heir to the Nokolai werewolf clan. Luckily for her, the Lady the lupi revere Chose her for Rule, making her his mate, allowing them to bond in a way that most werewolves can’t and giving them the chance for an exclusive relationship.
Lily’s actually on vacation, joining Rule as he travels to visit the son the humans don’t know he has. It’s time for him to take custody of the boy and introduce him to his clan. There are just two things that pop up to mess everything up. A series of brutal murders has occurred in the boy’s town, linked by the unlikely presence of death magic—naturally, the FBI requires Lily to take over the investigation. And Toby’s mother has suddenly decided that she wants custody of her son, after years of paying little attention to him.
To make everything more difficult, nothing seems to add up. The local law enforcement knows who committed the murders—but Lily’s convinced it isn’t the obvious suspect’s fault. Lily’s having a devil of a time getting the police to get over their anti-werewolf prejudices. Rule is having some issues of his own with the local Leidolf clan, and Toby and friends may be in a danger of their own.
This is a great mystery that definitely held me enthralled and kept me glued to my seat. The romance and mild eroticism are low-key; the mystery, suspense, and paranormal sides of the genre equation take center stage. The characters and world are intriguing, and the solution to the murders is unusual and thought-provoking. It would be easy for many of the characters to fall into well-established grooves, but instead they carry their own surprises. Even better, Ms. Wilks has a skill with description and narrative that truly bring a world and its characters alive, creating a full personality in quick, sure strokes:
Edna was a six-footer with a linebacker’s shoulders, a sun-worshipper’s wrinkles, and a ship’s prow of a bosom. Her hair was short, gray, and straight. She wore a wholly unflattering white oxford shirt tucked into belted khakis. No weapon.
“Crime scene photos,” Edna said, slapping a folder on the conference table. “Rest of it’s in here.” A second, thicker folder landed on top of the first. “Coffee’s in the break room, west end of the building, between the restrooms. Like we all want to hang out at break next to the piss pots, right?”