Before I review Claws by Stacey Cochran I feel that in the name of complete disclosure I should state that I got this book for free. And how I got the book for free is a tale.
A few years back I came across Stacey's first novel Amber Page and the Legend of the Coral Stone and was initially leery of buying it because the title was a tad Harry Potterish. But there was a sample chapter available, so I took a look and then bought it. It was enjoyable contemporary fantasy yarn, so I reviewed on the Lulu site where I'd purchased it. It was a broadly but not entirely positive review. A little later I got a nice email from Stacey thanking me for the balanced review and asking if I'd post it on Amazon, which I duly did since it was hardly a chore.
A while later he brought out the sequel The Colorado Sequence and I bought it. Rather amazingly I found myself mentioned in the credits in that novel. It was even better and I wrote an even more positive review - that I was only able to post on Amazon UK, because by that time Amazon was only allowing you to review things if you'd made a purchase and I've never bought from Amazon US.
So fast forward to now. He's bringing out his third novel Claws, and I want to buy it. Like his previous two novels it's self-published and this time he's chosen to go with CreateSpace for reasons I quite understand to do with making an affordable product. Unfortunately books published through CreateSpace are only available on Amazon US, and the Kindle (there's a Kindle Edition for 80 cents) is not released in the UK yet for technical reasons that have no place in this discussion. So I couldn't buy one. Having exchanged occasional emails with Stacey since my review of Coral Stone I commented on this to him and he sent me a signed copy!
So having established that I'm quite the fan of Stacey's you probably won't be too shocked that this is a broadly positive review. :-D
Claws is actually not a book I would have expressed an interest in if I hadn't already been a fan of Stacey Cochran's work. I'm a very fussy reader in my way - not so much about grammar and spelling (unless it's egregious) but I generally only read Speculative Fiction. Claws is a thriller, but it's not really SpecFic. However when - as here - a writer I like ventures into a genre I don't normally read I'll usually give it a go.
This is probably why - even though I can tell it's superior to his previous novels in writing skill and plotting I find that I don't like it quite as much as I did the other two.
That said I do like it. It's a tense and gripping thriller and I'd love to see a movie of it (I don't generally read thrillers but I love to watch them).
The novel is not amazingly deep (it's a thriller who expects depth?) but it still raises some interesting issues about wildlife conservation versus public safety without being preachy. The setup is quite simple - a mountain lion is stalking and killing people on a resort in Arizona - possibly because the place has been built too close to the wild. The Protagonist wants to relocate it while the resort owner (a thoroughly nasty piece of work) wants to kill it.
Stacey calls this book a mountain lion version of Jaws. I can see why, but I don't entirely think this does it justice. This isn't just Jaws with a big cat - there's more to it than that. Ironically though this book does suffer from a flaw I also found in in Benchley's "masterwork" when I tried to read it. (And there's one up for you Stacey - I finished Claws I gave up in the middle of Jaws). Both novels seem at times to lose a little focus by getting too caught up in the personal problems of the protagonists. Personal conflict usually enriches a novel - but not if it detracts from the thrill in thriller. But in Claws this isn't a deal breaker for me (it was in Jaws). I still found this a decent story.
And I couldn't help recognising a character who appeared in the very last scene as having also appeared in the last scene of Coral Stone. I'm not sure if this is a hint of a Stephen Kingesque metaverse or the guy is simply based on someone Stacey encountered in Hawaii. Maybe it's an Easter Egg? I don't know, but it amused me.
My thoughts - if you like thrillers with all that entails then Claws is certainly a worthy read in my opinion. And if you own a Kindle then at 80 cents you're hardly going to cry over wasted cash if you hate it. If I was rating this on Amazon I'd probably give it 4 stars on the grounds I can't give it 3.5 and I hate to round down).