Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Spirit Dances by C. E. Murphy

on February 2, 2011

I am a huge fan of C. E. Murphy’s work. My favorite works of hers are her Walker Papers novels, but I also enjoyed the books in The Negotiator series. One of my vague hopes when I became a librarian was that I’d get to review books in some capacity. This hasn’t happened in journals or trade publications although, to be honest, I haven’t even attempted to go that route. I just post reviews on my blog when the mood takes me (and possibly more frequently than that now that I’m going to be making an effort with the books on NetGalley). We’re looking to add reviews to my library’s blog, so it’s good that I’m stocking up on new titles for future review blog posts.

Title:Spirit Dances
Author:C. E. Murphy
Publication Date:March 22, 2011
Publisher's Description:One date with the boss can get coyote ugly.

For Seattle detective Joanne Walker, spring is about new beginnings. She’s mastered her shamanic abilities (mostly), survived a cannibalistic serial killer (barely) and now she’s facing the biggest challenge of her career—attending a dance concert with her sexy boss, Captain Michael Morrison. But when the performance— billed as transformative—actually changes her into a coyote, she and Morrison have bigger things to deal with.

And there’s more. Homeless people are disappearing, a mystical murder puts Joanne
way out of her jurisdiction and with the full moon coming on, it’s looking like the killer is a creature that can’t possibly exist. But Jo could probably handle all of that, if one ordinary homicide hadn’t pushed her to the very edge.…

Cop or shaman? The choice isn’t easy. But it’s one she just might have to make.…
My Rating4 Stars

So I was hugely excited to read this book. This is the sixth entry in The Walker Papers books, one of my favorite current series in any genre. There’s always the worry that the newest entry in a series won’t live up to the books that preceded it. I’m happy to report that, far from losing momentum, Spirit Dances may very well be the best Walker Papers book yet. I appreciate how the character of Joanne has progressed throughout the series, and how what she has learned in previous books is often tied into what is happening in the present. I especially appreciate how it sometimes takes a couple of books for her to realize and rectify her mistakes. In this world, nothing is pat, nothing is simple, and nothing is static.

It was interesting to see how comfortable Joanne has become with things formerly outside of her comfort zone: two obvious examples are being more intentional about using her magic and discussing her Native American heritage without defensiveness. While she still has a lot of learning to do, I appreciate that she’s so willing to suspend her disbelief and discomfort until there’s time to deal with them. She didn’t always do that. Our Joanie’s growing up! The role that Joanne’s teachers (both magical and non) play in her life cannot be overestimated. With their help, and her own good sense, she makes some huge strides when it comes to the magical traditions of both of her parents’ cultures, even as she ends up experiencing things she didn’t know existed.

Joanne’s identification with her job as a police officer is another thing that I found interesting. This might be the first book in the series where I can remember her thinking more of herself as a cop than as a mechanic who has been thrust into the wrong role. Her police work is how she gets involved in the supernatural events that take place in this book, and really shapes a lot of what she experiences. Officer Joanne and Shaman Joanne end up working together here, and it’s absolutely beautiful.

C. E. Murphy continues to expand Joanne’s world, in a gradual and realistic way. For those who’ve enjoyed the previous books in this series, I recommend this book unreservedly. For those who are looking for an interesting urban fantasy series to start reading, The Walker Papers and Spirit Dances may be for you. If you like good writing and strong, complex, and utterly endearing protagonists, I don’t see how you can go wrong reading these books!

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