by Jeff Strand
There are several kinds of werewolves in modern fiction.
There are the misunderstood "good" werewolves, people who are afflicted with the
lycanthropic curse, but who try to blend into society and cause no harm. There are the
purely evil werewolves, creatures bent on death and destruction. And there are the more
recent renditions who seem to either be falling in love with vampires or getting depressed
when the pretty human girl falls for the vampire instead of him. In Wolf Hunt, the
werewolf is decidedly of the second version. Ivan, the werewolf in question, is 100% evil.
The book opens with George and Lou, two thugs for hire, breaking the thumbs of someone who ran afoul of some drug dealers. Despite this pretty brutal act, they come across as somewhat nice guys, if thugs can be nice. They do have limits, and to them, their violence is merely a job. Their banter throughout the book is reminiscent of the characters in Pulp Fiction; bad, but good.
Tasked with transporting a skinny man in a cage, they are told the man is a werewolf and should be left completely alone. Of course, they don't believe the man is a werewolf, and Ivan keeps denying that he is. George and Lou should have believed it. Through a series of events, the two save Michele, an innocent bystander from death by dogs driven to a frenzy by Ivan, and then let Ivan escape.
Initially fearful of how their client would react to them losing the werewolf, George and Lou decide to track Ivan down and recapture him. But as Ivan goes on an orgy of death, they realize they have to stop Ivan, feeling guilty about allowing all those people to be killed and anxious to stop the bloodbath.
Ivan is a pretty powerful werewolf. He can control his changing so he is not dependant on a full moon. And he can take an inordinate amount of punishment to include bullets to the head and huge gashes. Only silver seems to slow him down. And Ivan is very adept at killing. George and Lou have a very difficult task ahead of them.
Jeff Strand's writing style is light and witty. The banter between the main characters is almost flippant, but not quite. This is a dangerous path to take as most writers do not seem to be able to pull it off, but Strand only approaches "too much" and keeps just on this side of enjoyable. The dialogue adds to the violent romp without crossing over into camp.
Characterization is another major accomplishment. In too many novels which take this approach, characterization suffers. But the four main characters in this tale are well-fleshed and believable.
The violence and death are continual and very graphic. And that leads to a problem. How can an author keep up the dramatic tension throughout an entire novel when one character is so obviously more adept and killing than the other characters? In this case, why doesn't Ivan just kill George and Lou in their first fight rather than let them escape death over and over when other spear-carriers are dropping like flies?
Strand uses Ivan's desire to make George, especially, suffer as more people are killed before he plans to kill him, and that works to an extent. But even after Ivan decides to kill George and Lou, he can't quite seem to do it despite his fervent intentions. Either his blows do not kill them or he decides to run away when one of them has a gun or a grenade despite the fact that bullets, while painful, do not seem to cause him permanent damage.
This is a tough quandary to an author, and Strand's method of dealing with it result in George and Lou being too robust and durable to fit the storyline. Some of the tension seeps away once we see escape after escape by them.
There were some other minor issues, such as when in a car chase, the use of grenades and dynamite did not follow reality, or if a werewolf's bite can make another person change into a werewolf, why did biting off the hand of one character not cause him to change as well? But for the most part, the story flowed well.
Wolf Hunt is a fun romp of death and destruction. Its fast pace and light tone make for an easy read. And Ivan hearkens back to the old, malevolent versions of werewolves, not the modern versions who seem to be more interested in fashion and getting the girl. No brooding, handsome misunderstood soul, Ivan is the epitome of evil in the world, someone who kills simply because he can.
And to me, at least, that makes him far more interesting.
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