Dreadful Skin -- Cherie Priest
I really should add 'horror' to my category list.
America, 1870. Women who carry guns and drink whiskey are a bit out of the ordinary, and Eileen Callaghan takes it a few steps further. She's a gun totin', whiskey drinking, cigarette smoking, card playing (or willing to play, anyway) Irish nun. AND she's not without secrets.
Then there's what she's seeking. For years now, she's been tracking a man called Jack Gabert, who went to India as a man and came back as... something else.
Sure -- Dreadful Skin is a rip-snorter** of a werewolf*** story, but it also raises questions about how far into the dark you'd be willing to go to do the right thing:
"Look," I said. "You're sitting in a saloon with a papist and a handful of hard liquor. A year ago, this would have seemed improbable, at best--and embarrassing or unthinkable at worst. Yet here we are, you and I. And we know there are worse things than critical glares and the snubs of our fellow men. The rules are changed now, Leonard."
"Changed? By whom?"
"By me. By you. By Jack, and Daniel. They aren't playing by the rules, and neither are we."
"Then we become monsters too, in order to engage the monsters?"
As in her other books, she uses the conventions of the genre(s) (in this one, Gothic and western and action/horror), but they never feel tired. It's smart and fast, and Cherie Priest clearly expects that her readers will be able to keep up. Yep. I'm definitely hoping for more stories about Eileen Callaghan. Lots of them.
Recommended to anyone who'd like to read about a werewolf and a nun duking it out on a steamboat. And though it's very different, there are enough similarities that I'd pass it along to discontented LKH fans as well.
*Well, yes. Eden Moore too.
**Forgive me for that -- I'm still a little loopy from my vacation.
***I swear that's not a spoiler. It's right in the acknowledgments on the first page, and the Introduction to Part One says, "More monster than man, he was trapped in a storm, on a boat, with a moon above that was almost full--and a deadly hunger that could not be contained." So, yeah. Not a spoiler.