Little Wolves is a tough novel to explain. I understand why some people do not like to see the word “literary” used to describe a novel type but, for lack of a better word, I am going take the notion one step farther and will call this one “literary crime fiction” – or “literary thriller.” That is exactly what Little Wolves is: a character and setting-driven novel with a plot encompassing elements of both the mystery and thriller genres. It has an exciting story to tell, and it tells it in literary fashion.
Lone Mountain is one of those 1980s Minnesota prairie towns in which everyone pretty much knows the business of everyone else, a place where personal grudges are sometimes carried for decades, and even passed from one generation to the next. And when, shortly after the arrival of a new pastor and his wife, the town is shocked by the shotgun murder of Sheriff Will Gunderson by a local teen, a violent chain of events is unleashed that will finally expose the ugly core of this little community.
As Grizz Fallon, the young murderer’s father, tries to make sense of what his son has done, he learns how little he really knew about what was going on in the boy’s day-to-day world. But the more he discovers about his son and what drove him to kill, the more resistance Grizz gets from the remaining town sheriff, a man who has had it in for Grizz for a long time. Grizz, though, believes that he failed his son and, despite being warned to mind his own business, he will not rest until he knows the truth about what happened on that bloody morning.
Grizz is not the only one feeling guilty. Clara Warren, the new preacher’s wife, now believes she could have prevented the shooting if only she had had the courage necessary to do so. Clara, who has a strange personal connection to the town, encouraged her husband to take the Lone Mountain job for reasons she has not been entirely honest with her husband about. But the more she learns about her past, and its connections to the present, the closer she comes to cracking from all the pressure.
Thomas Maltman has written a complicated novel, one that can be read and enjoyed on several levels. The novel has the kind of action that most pleases thriller fans, and the mystery at its core is an intriguing one. Even better, it is filled with well-developed characters (of the hard-to-like, but easy-to-understand variety) and a complicated set of dual plots (filled with literary references) that tie together beautifully at the end.
Now that I think about it, maybe I should have called it a “literary page-turner.”
(Review Copy provided by Publisher)