Nicholas Pekearo’s debut novel, The Wolfman, breathes new life into one of the horror genre’s legendary characters, the werewolf, amazingly enough turning the monster into the sympathetic hero of the story. Sadly, it has to be mentioned that Mr. Pekearo lost his life while patrolling as an unarmed volunteer policeman in New York before publication of The Wolfman and that his hopes of turning this book into a series died with him.
Marlowe Higgins, a Viet Nam vet with a tainted military discharge, did not inherit much from his father. But unfortunately for Higgins, he did not come away completely empty-handed. Instead, upon his father’s passing Higgins found himself burdened by a curse that originated with his great-great-grandfather, one that turns him into a killing machine with the appearance of each month’s full moon.
To his credit, Marlowe is a man with a conscious and, for a time, he fought the monthly transition from human to werewolf with a determination that caused him tremendous physical and psychological pain. But, try as he might to avoid it, he was forced to make a kill each month, so he found a way to ease his feelings of guilt by killing only those who deserved to die, murderers and criminals who preyed on those weaker than themselves, especially those who targeted women and children.
If Marlowe wanted to stay under the radar of law enforcement authorities, he knew that had to live a drifter’s life, something he did until taking a break from the road and settling into the little town of Evelyn where he worked as a short-order cook. For the first time since returning from Viet Nam, Marlowe lived what passed for a relatively normal existence despite the curse which continued to plague him. But, sooner or later, all good things manage to come to an end. That end came for Marlowe’s lifestyle when a serial killer, who was to be known as the Rose Killer because of his habit of replacing the eyeballs of his victims with roses, came to Evelyn and decided to stay for a while.
The Wolfman so skillfully walks that fine line between reality and fantasy that Pekearo is able to transform a werewolf not only into a sympathetic character, but into a thoroughly believable one. The story is set in the dark little world of Evelyn, a town desperately in need of the protection of a superhero, if there ever was one, and one peopled by characters who would be right at home in the shadows and alleyways of the big city. Pekearo has skillfully combined the elements of several genres in a way that ensures the novel’s appeal to fans of each of them: horror, detective fiction, thriller, and American noire.
The book’s weak point is the relative ease with which most readers will determine the identity of the Rose Killer long before Marlowe manages it, something that diminishes some of the novel’s tension level. But in a novel that is as much fun as The Wolfman that is an easy thing to forgive.
Rated at: 4.0
Originally published at Curled Up with a Good Book