*****Five out of Five Stars.
Review by Mark Palm
It’s no surprise to anyone who follows the publishing business that the series has become a juggernaut. Like cinema, sequels and reboots have become ubiquitous, and I would argue, often at the expense of quality. However, when a series of books are written for artistic rather than financial reasons,and they work, they can have an impact that is staggering. I’m not saying that bigger is always better; but when big is great it packs one hell of a punch.
Which brings me to Hunger Moon, which is the fifth installment of the FBI/Huntress series by Alexandra Sokoloff. I’ve been reading and reviewing this series since the first book, Huntress Moon, and been enthralled the entire way. Each book has been exceptional, each one has been different, and when read together the sum total is greater that each individual part. So while these books stand alone I strongly encourage you to read the entire series, from beginning to end. To briefly sum it up, this series is the story of Cara Lindstrom, who was the sole member of her family to survive an attack by a famed serial killer. This event causes her to become an avenging angel who kills men who prey upon women and children. FBI Agent and former Criminal Profiler Matthew Roarke discovers Cara and become enthralled with the anomaly of what appears to be the first female serial killer.
The previous novel, Bitter Moon, deals with Cara’s life after the attack on her family, when, as a teenager she is forced to kill or be killed by a serial rapist and murderer, and Roarke's investigation of those same crimes years later to help solve crimes in the present. There were a lot of great things in Bitter Moon, but what I found most compelling was the dual narrative of Cara and Roarke. As they followed the same story, in different times, with different skills and attitudes, it was always thrilling; but what gave this tale a sense of depth that you rarely find was the sense of intimacy that these two shared, tinged with a sadness that was almost heart-breaking.
Hunger Moon, the latest installment, is different, but just as good. The story starts with Cara off of the grid on a Native American reservation, in hiding, but still dispatching predators attempting to take advantage of legal loopholes to rape Native girls. After discovering that Detective Ortiz, who had stalked her as a teenager has created online forums to place a bounty on her, Cara leaves, looking to stop him.
Meanwhile Roarke is back at the FBI, pitching his idea to create a task force to enable the Bureau to improve its ability to prosecute serial abuser, rapists and human traffickers. To his shock the Bureau suggests instead that he look into a vandalism case, perhaps backed by Bitch, the feminist organization introduced earlier in the series, where someone defaced a Berkeley fraternity who had many members facing accusations of rape, although no charges have yet been filed. Considering the assignment a dead end, Roarke and his partner Epps do their duty, and begin to suspect that the fraternity is deeply steeped in rape culture. When two of the frat boys are abducted, his investigation takes a more serious turn.
Jade Lauren plays an important role as well. Having left the Bitch group home upon hearing about the incident in Berkeley returns, and passing as a student she meets a woman who tells her that her sister was raped a a fraternity party. Jade convinces the woman that they must take matters into their own hands, and emulating Cara they do.
The other story-line features Agent Singh. While monitoring Ortiz’s forums trying to discover his plans for Cara, she is discovered, and finds herself in danger from the group. I was particularly impressed, and very moved, with the arc of Singh’s character. She has always had an exceptional supporting role, but in in this case she almost steals the book, no small feat in a novel with so many strong and vivid characters.
These four disparate plots, Cara and Roarke, Jade and Singh, become tightly interwoven as the novel races toward its end, and the fact they dovetail so well is a testament to the astounding story-telling skills of Ms. Sokoloff. I am not dropping spoilers, but trust me when I say that this novel left me breathless by the time it came to an end.
Hunger Moon is not an easy novel to read; nor should it be. It deals with rape, rape culture and human trafficking. This time, however, it also deals with the current administration's attempts to roll back all of the progress made in the past dealing with these issues. Ms. Sokoloff pulls no punches and takes on the new political landscape in which we find our-self; an America where one’s life can be in danger, simply because of your gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. A lot of people think that politics should play no place in fiction. I disagree. While a work of fiction Hunger Moon takes place in the modern world, in a very dark time in our history. The Huntress series has never shied away from difficult issues in the real world, and Ms. Sokoloff has always faced those issues straight on. She does it again here, and I cannot praise her enough, not only for her bravery and honesty, but for writing an excellent thriller. Read this book.