Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
Expected publication: May 8, 2012 (HarperCollins)
Source: ARC from the publisher
Series or Stand-alone: Hemlock (1)
Further info/purchase: Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Find the author online: Twitter | Website
Mackenzie and Amy were best friends. Until Amy was brutally murdered.
Since then, Mac’s life has been turned upside down. She is being haunted by Amy in her dreams, and an extremist group called the Trackers has come to Mac’s hometown of Hemlock to hunt down Amy’s killer: A white werewolf.
Lupine syndrome—also known as the werewolf virus—is on the rise across the country. Many of the infected try to hide their symptoms, but blood lust is not easy to control.
Wanting desperately to put an end to her nightmares, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder herself. She discovers secrets lurking in the shadows of Hemlock, secrets about Amy’s boyfriend, Jason, her good pal Kyle, and especially her late best friend. Mac is thrown into a maelstrom of violence and betrayal that puts her life at risk.
Kathleen Peacock’s thrilling novel is the first in the Hemlock trilogy, a spellbinding urban fantasy series filled with provocative questions about prejudice, trust, lies, and love.
For some time now, I've held off on reading werewolf novels, but within a few chapters of Hemlock, the debut from Kathleen Peacock, I knew not only that I couldn't hold out any longer, but also that this novel was truly something astoundingly special. Poignant, electrifying, and enchanting, Hemlock is a spectacular start for Peacock. Picking up shortly after Mackenzie's best friend is murdered by a werewolf, Hemlock races headlong into the action as a still-grieving Mac decides to take matters into her own hands and investigate Amy's death. Along for the thrill-ride are a wonderfully written cast of supporting characters, ranging from the tragically broken Jason (Amy's boyfriend), the protective Kyle (Mac's best friend), and Tess (Mac's cousin and parental figure.) Between the stunning cast of characters, their intricate relationships, and the mystery aspect, I absolutely couldn't put down Hemlock or tear myself loose from the gorgeous web the story wove around me.
Mac is a refreshing protagonist - self-aware without being TOO much so, spirited, honest, and brave. She's also a tremendously strong female, with a huge heart. Mac cares a great deal about her friends and family, and isn't afraid to show it in various ways, whether it's reaching out to try to save Jason, who's fallen apart after Amy's death, or looking out for Tess. I want to applaud Kathleen Peacock for writing such an amazingly sympathetic and likable character in Mackenzie. This story, compelling as it was, wouldn't have made such a huge impact on me where it not for Mac.
Hemlock did make an impression on me, from start to finish. I enjoyed trying to figure out who Amy's killer was, and it was delightfully frustrating in so many ways. Kathleen Peacock has written a nicely-developed mystery that stumped me and will likely continue to do so with readers. When the mystery finally was solved, I think I may have gasped. Between that aspect, and the Trackers, an above-the-law fanatical group of werewolf hunters, Hemlock definitely had a darker feel than I expected, but one that I adored. I definitely want to know more about the Trackers, and about the werewolf camps, as well as about the secondary group that came into play during the story, battling for rights for werewolves.
I didn't want to finish Kathleen Peacock's debut novel for many reasons, yet another one being how haunting and brilliant all the characters and their interactions were. I felt for so many of them, and yet I have to say, I think - and this may seem odd - that one of the strongest characters in the novel was Amy. Although she was never anything but a memory, she was very much a presence: in Mac's nightmares, in between Mac and Jason, and Mac and Kyle, in the town, in the mystery of her death. Amy was compelling, and added yet another layer, another enigma to Hemlock, because as the story goes on, we see that there was much more to Amy than anyone knew. I also really loved Mackenzie's relationship with Tess. Despite Mac's family history, it was clear how much she and Tess cared for one another.
Yes, I said love. It may seem improbable, but I already feel like I know these characters, this town. Hemlock was such a bewitching and compelling debut that I know I won't forget it anytime soon. Some books just have IT, that spark, that combination of events, characters, writing, and themes as to make them unforgettable. There's a certain kind of magic in a well-written, striking book, where all the ingredients meshed perfectly. And with plenty of action, mystery, romance, darkness, heart, and soul, Hemlock is one of those books.