Mystery, politics, and romance combine for easy but slow-to-start read
In Kathleen Peacock's Hemlock, the town of Hemlock has been ravaged by a string of fatal werewolf attacks. Mackenzie's best friend Amy was among those killed, and ever since she's been trying to come to terms with what happened. When a vigilante group called the Trackers comes to town to investigate the murders, Mac decides she wants to find out the truth for herself. She soon learns that people aren't always who they seem to be, including her good friend, Kyle, and Amy's former boyfriend, Jason, and that danger may be closer than she realizes.
HEMLOCK is yet another addition to the crowded world of werewolf fiction, but it adds some unique elements to the familiar set-up. In this world, everyone knows that werewolves exist and how people are infected. This framing allows the story to be about more interesting topics, like who is one or how the werewolves are being stigmatized by those in power, than about the revelation that werewolves exist. The mystery makes up the most important part of the story, and it includes political scheming, a few unexpected twists, and chilling and sometimes brutal show-downs between the different sides. The story also contains some likable and believable characters, especially Kyle, and Mac's internal conflict about her nightmares of Amy is fascinating. The reader never knows whether Amy's appearances in Mac's dreams are simply her subconscious or something paranormal, and that adds to the intrigue regarding what the dreams might really mean.
On the less positive side, the story didn't grab me for a long time and I didn't find myself actually interested until past the half-way point. The novel also devoted too much time to a love triangle that seemed to come out of nowhere. Neither relationship provided much swoon, and the focus on the potential relationship with each guy often overtook the more interesting plot lines as the story progressed. Descriptions of dialogue sometimes came off as awkward, such as characters who "whisper-muttered" or sentences that were run together as one long word for dramatic effect. Though not a true cliffhanger, the ending also leaves readers in an unfinished place with a new adventure about to start for some of the characters.
Taken together, HEMLOCK was an easy read about a world where werewolves, murder, and friendship all intersect, but it didn't end up being anything truly memorable. In future books of this trilogy, I hope the author continues to develop her focus on the mystery and politics and that she brings more swoon or believable tension to the love triangle.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy.