The Craving: A Novel of the Pack
No one is writing books like Jason Starr. His shelf of stand-alone urban noir thrillers, comprised of titles such as LIGHTS OUT and NOTHING PERSONAL, and the eerily prescient PANIC ATTACK, almost beg for repeat readings.
"Starr combines elements of crime fiction with the supernatural and romantic to make THE CRAVING a memorable second installment in a series that, as far as I’m concerned, can go on forever.... THE CRAVING will have you by turns reading and looking over your shoulder."
In 2011, Starr took his superior craftsmanship into somewhat of a different direction with THE PACK. The first in a series, it concerned a gentleman named Simon Burns, a thirty-something Manhattanite who practically overnight goes from an up-and-coming adman to a stay-at-home dad. Burns meets a group of similarly situated fathers one afternoon in Battery Park, and after a guys’ night out is initiated into their world of werewolves. The book works not only in the straight horror genre but also as a dark metaphor, the perfect antidote for those who don’t find supernatural creatures to be cute, cuddly, or sexy. THE CRAVING is Starr’s follow-up, broadening Burns’ universe while bringing him even deeper into the new world.
One of the considerable strengths of Starr’s work is his uncanny ability to explore the nooks and crannies of human foibles while never losing track of the trademark qualities of genre fiction. This is especially true in THE CRAVING. As it opens, Burns is having an increasing amount of difficulty functioning around people, particularly his family. He hugs his child too tightly; his wife notices that his eyes are darker; and he is unable to deal with sexual arousal for fear that he will literally tear his wife apart. Being out in public creates its own share of difficulties: women are instinctively attracted to him in a carnal way; animals shy away from him or react badly (there is one scene that takes place in the Central Park Zoo that alone makes the book worth picking up); and when Burns stretches himself out during a run, he goes just a bit too fast. He also likes to roam the city streets late at night, and sometimes experiences blackouts on the morning after. Burns doesn’t know it as the book begins, but he is about to find himself in huge trouble.
New York homicide detective Geri Rodriguez remains troubled by the recent disappearance of a successful female executive, and while her commanding officer wants her to concentrate on other cases where the bodies are still warm, she is haunted by this woman who has seemingly vanished. Rodriguez’s investigation is putting her on a straight collision course with Burns, who is really beginning to like the changes he has experienced, even with their associated problems. These individuals are about to connect in a way that will change them both.
Starr combines elements of crime fiction with the supernatural and romantic to make THE CRAVING a memorable second installment in a series that, as far as I’m concerned, can go on forever. And when one considers the nature and method of the seemingly random attacks taking place in the real world recently, one has no choice but to wonder if Starr is working his prescient magic once again. THE CRAVING will have you by turns reading and looking over your shoulder.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on August 2, 2012