by Mari Hamill
‘Werewolf Nights’ tells us the story of Catherine Mercy; a thirty-something baker and widow in the town of Wereville. Her true love disappeared and her controlling husband is presumed dead following what appears to be a boating accident. Catherine deflects all attempts by would-be suitors to find love again until she meets Charles, who appears in Wereville around the time of the Festival of the Wolf which celebrates the legends of both hunters and Werewolves in the town and, coincidentally, when a Hollywood film crew arrive to shoot the third instalment of a Werewolf film franchise.
Emboldened by her friend, Anne, at the Bakery, Catherine auditions for the female lead in the film and lands the role. As she emerges from her sequestered life to begin filming, it slowly dawns on her that the legend upon which the script is based, is more than close to home. Her fears that Greg Byron, the idolised star and male lead, is a narcissistic womaniser take an unexpected turn once filming begins and his is bitten by a wolf. Throw this in with a case of mistaken/double identity, an old recipe book, a resurrected husband, a paranormal Film Director and a long-lost sweetheart all of which mean that Catherine faces a race against the next Full Moon, to undo the curse that Greg is now under.
A cursory glance of both genre and synopsis, told me this not a book I would normally read. But I am glad I came out of my usual habits; it’s a fun, well-paced, tongue in cheek, piece of escapism. Perfect for whiling away a couple of lazy afternoons in the garden or round the pool. Like all things that appear simple, it has been deceptively well-crafted. I just felt the plot required tightening in places and there also needed to be as little more showing and a little less telling in some of the chapters.
There are a lot of chapters and I did wonder if they would be necessary but each worked well and moved the narrative on without feeling rushed. The chapters are short enough that I tended to read on by two or three because I was enjoying it so much. The other point (probably obvious but I am pretty new to this genre) to make is that some if not all of the book is pretty far-fetched. Yet, it seems normal when you read it, which is quite an art. You are not thinking ‘this is totally unbelievable’ you are instead thinking, ‘oooh, that’s fun, I wonder what happens next?’. There are parts of the plot which are conveniently stretched (Catherine’s sudden proficient horse-riding ability!) but it can be overlooked because you want to keep reading and these slightly incredulous plot mechanics are quite fun. You are reading a book about Werewolves so occasional belief suspension when it comes to the actual story is to be expected. There is also an unexpected point of view change in the narrative in Chapter 21 which worked well – this could have been revisited and possibly with a couple of the other characters.
In regard to the ‘telling’, I did feel a couple of chapters were just giving background information. It’s always a tricky call and if you are attempting to write context where the person does not exist anymore (Frank, supposedly at this stage) and it’s the past, it is hard to ‘show’ in a novel like this. I think Hamill gets away with the information overload that occurs at times, but I don’t personally think it was always needed – Anne, for example; her personality and the role she plays in Catherine’s life was quite evident from how we saw her at the Bakery. I also did not think the few, brief mentions of Catherine’s parents were necessary. They added nothing and despite the fact she is fairly young, I would not have questioned why no parents were referred to. There were a couple of other elements that I felt were a bit superfluous (the Story of Erwin) but Hamill does not dwell and the Chapters are snappy enough that you don’t get too bogged down.
I thought the Prologue was useful and many are not. I think Hamill could have ramped up Ye Olde Worlde language; it was partly there and was a good way to introduce the book but I think it would have set the tone even better if it had been spoofed more. I did also think that it would make a good, easy-watching TV show. Especially in the first half of the novel; I felt it was almost written with one eye to a script. Practically every movement of Catherine’s is noted and described in the earlier stages (Chapter 2 especially) and I could really visualise her actions.
I did have to read some of the concluding chapters a couple of times; the pace of the plot became a bit rushed and I did have to check who had been bitten by a wolf and who was a wolf a couple of times but, all in all, I thought this was an amusing, entertaining read that did not take itself too seriously and neither should the reader. Good fun.