Book Review: Primal Reserve by L.J. Dougherty


Title: Primal Reserve (Espionage Horror Series Book #2)

Author: L.J. Dougherty

Release date: January 17th, 2022

Recently I had the pleasure of reading the first book in this series ‘Beasts of the Caliber Lodge,’ and really, really loved it. I had that book on my TBR for a while and, knowing that the sequel was out, I wanted to jump on the second one.

Just a heads up – this is a sequel, and while you could get away with reading this without the first, there is a lot of subtext and alluding to the events in the first that you wouldn’t completely follow or know. Also, I’ll do my best to keep it spoiler free for both books, but there is something specific I’ll discuss that might not be completely spoiler free!

I was on a podcast a number of months back with Dougherty (alongside David Sodergren and Cameron Roubique) and on that podcast, L.J. discussed how the first book started as a screenplay, which he adapted to a novel as he realized he’d never get enough funds to film it. Fair enough. That also makes both book one and book two feel and read very cinematic.

What I liked: Picking up after the events of book one, Jimmy Knotts now heads to South American, in search of a Nazi called The Winemaker. Jumping onboard a river boat, Knotts and the crew head deeper into the Amazon.

Now, of course, this has a few different plot points going for it. We get the crew looking for these crazy creatures known as Yacuruna’s. Think of them like the creature from ‘The Shape of Water’ or Abe Sapien from the Hellboy world. They live in the water of the rivers and these amphibious creatures protect their territories. We also get turmoil between characters and eventually we arrive at the home of The Winemaker.

Dougherty, as I mentioned, writes very cinematically. So, expect lush descriptions of locations and ‘pan shots’ where we are introduced to where the action is going to happen. The action itself is always a ton of fun and seeing how each character reacts and does what they can to survive was great.

Lastly, the sequence that ends this particular book is really great. I always enjoy seeing the bad guys ultimately get justice served and L.J. makes sure that we get to see this all with vivid detail. You’ll be grinning from ear to ear.

What I didn’t like: A couple things really stuck out for me here, especially when compared to the first (and this is the minor spoiler thingy I mentioned earlier). In ‘Beasts…’ the sasquatch play a prominent role in the plot of the story. In fact, most of the story involves the creatures – first the hunt of them, then the escape. In this book, the creatures are completely secondary and almost totally forgotten about by the ending. As someone who really loved the cryptid aspect of book one, this one is a bit of let down in comparison. Additionally, there is an odd almost love connection that occurred early on with a creature that not only never went anywhere, but really played no part in pushing anything forward and I was disappointed that it wasn’t utilized.

Secondly, at the ending, there is an illusion to something bigger/larger overarching than the Nazi aspect and I just don’t know if that worked for me. We’ll see if it gets expanded upon in book three, but for now, I think it pulled away from the historical grounding the Nazi hunt offered the books.

Why you should buy this: As with book one, book two races along. These are spy-page turners, a mix of action, suspense and intrigue where you always know something is going to happen but you don’t know what or when. Dougherty also does a great job of making everybody a potential turn-coat which also makes for an investing read.

I’m excited to see where we end up in book three, but for now, those looking for a really engaging series to dive into, these books will be right up your alley.


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