cover image Tooth and Claw

Tooth and Claw

Graham Masterton / Author Severn House Publishers $24 (256p) I

In the second occult adventure of California community college teacher Jim Rook, Masterton repeats the formula he concocted for its predecessor, Rook: introduce a student troubled by a mythic monster from his or her ethnic heritage, then let the psychic professor slug it out with the supernatural. When Native American Catherine White Bird's boyfriend is found mauled to death, Rook finds himself face-to-face with an avatar of Coyote, the Trickster of Navajo legend, who rather improbably is using Catherine as part of his scheme to wipe the white man off the earth. Masterton milks suspense from Rook's frustrating inability to warn others of the spirit-beast (which only the psychically gifted can see), and the unpredictable death of a major character gives the tale a twist. The plot is curdled with absurdities, however, most notably an comic-book climax (it involves the school's football team and an eviscerated heart). A happy ending sets the stage for Rook's further adventures but revokes the novel's most audacious surprises, leaving the reader feeling... well, rooked. (Dec.)