As you know by now, I bring a batch of advance reader copies to Slog Happy, with the caveat that the person who reads (or tries to read) the book has to review it for all of us here on Slog.
Today's book review by Abby is a little bit special. Two Slog Happies ago, we had a drawing for Bumbershoot tickets. We also had a book called The Wolfman that I didn't think anybody was going to take home. So when Abby won the Bumbershoot tickets, I made her take The Wolfman, too. I immediately felt guilty about that, especially when I learned that Abby was actually reading the book—I kind of foisted it on her as a joke.
But Abby is strong and good and she actually went ahead and read the whole thing. Anything you don’t like about this review no doubt is due to the editing process and not at all Abby’s fault and you should blame the editor. I am the editor.
A book about a werewolf that solves murders. That's not what I look for in reading material—in fact, those elements (werewolves, murder mysteries) usually direct me away from a book. But this one came with Bumbershoot tickets. So I gave it a chance.
And it turned out that I really liked it.
The Wolfman is the story of Marlowe Higgins, a Vietnam vet who's also a werewolf who has to kill whenever he transforms. He's managed to direct the werewolf (referred to always as 'the wolf' or something like that, separating it from Marlowe himself) towards killing bad guys instead of random people. He's managed to set himself up in a small town, getting a job as a line cook and a friend on the police force who feeds him information about suspicious deaths and murders. It works for him. And then a serial killer shows up in his town and things get messed up.
There's more to it than that, of course, but it's a mystery, and going into the story any more here would ruin it. I'm too nice of a person to do that, especially since The Wolfman is worth reading. It's a well-crafted book, telling the story both of how the murders are solved and how Marlowe got to where he is, managing to use flashbacks in a way that doesn't seem ridiculous. Not knowing a whole lot about werewolf mythology, I found this conception of it very interesting and to me, unique. And it all makes sense, which is important for a story like this- if it's a book that's about a werewolf who catches a serial killer, it better be consistent in the world it creates.
The star, though, is Marlowe himself. Just familiar enough to be recognizable, unique enough to be memorable. Badasses with hearts of gold are familiar territory, of course, but there's enough in Marlowe to make him interesting, anyway. He's a badass more by circumstance than by design. Pekearo does a great job of revealing that, piece by piece, personal tragedy by personal tragedy. What I especially like is the attention to little details—Marlowe's T-shirts and favorite metal bands, the small things that round out a person and a character. I like seeing little irrelevancies in characters, particularly leading ones; everyone should contain multitudes.
Apparently, Pekearo envisioned a series around Marlowe Higgins, turning him into the kind of anti-hero that mysteries thrive upon. The tragedy of The Wolfman is that this is the only one. Nicholas Pekearo was an auxiliary policeman- a volunteer cop that didn't get a gun or bulletproof vest- in Greenwich Village in New York, where he grew up, and was killed in the line of duty in 2007 at the age of 28. (Admittedly, that was another reason why I wasn't expecting much from his book- the human-interest level was far too high for something readable, right?) So there is no more Marlowe Higgins. And that's a shame- there are far worse protagonists out there who get to continue existing.
Many thanks to Abby.