Sometimes the Wolf
Urban Waite keeps raising his own standards with each new novel and surpassing them with his next. His latest, SOMETIMES THE WOLF, is one of those books that is totally engrossing as you are reading it and haunts your thoughts when you are not. While it could be classified as a modern western, it straddles and transcends other genres, including thriller and mystery, while exploring themes such as past sins and the often complicated relationships between fathers and sons. It is not to be approached lightly, but is worth embracing wholeheartedly.
The primary father/son relationship explored in SOMETIMES THE WOLF is that of Patrick and Bobby Drake. Patrick is the father, the former sheriff of Silver Lake, a small town in Washington State where he raised Bobby following the death of his wife. He was highly respected until he answered a series of financial setbacks with an action that became known as one of the biggest crimes in the history of the area. Following his arrest and conviction, Patrick was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Bobby, meanwhile, became a deputy sheriff in the same department that Patrick once headed. He and his wife, Sheri, have trials and a major tragedy of their own to contend with. As the book opens, the jury is still out as to whether or not they will weather their personal storm.
"SOMETIMES THE WOLF is a beauteous and frightening joy to read from beginning to end, a tale in which the reader never knows quite what will happen from page to page or even from paragraph to paragraph."
At the same time, Patrick is released from prison after having served a dozen years. He moves in with Bobby and Sheri as he gets his civilian legs back under him. The town that he knew so well reacts to his return with a welcome that ranges from gracious to uneasy. It develops that the fruits of Patrick’s ill labors are hidden somewhere in Silver Lake, a state of affairs that he vehemently denies. Trouble is not far behind Patrick, though. Two of his former prison mates, very dangerous and unpredictable men, have escaped from the same prison from which Patrick was so recently released and plan to collect on the bounty that he promised them in return for their protection of him while he was incarcerated.
Patrick, of course, was not expecting that the bill would be due so quickly, but there are other complications, not the least of which is his own father, a quasi-hermit who is about to get dragged into the situation. And he is not the only Drake family member who finds that sins of the past (and not necessarily of their own) are about to be avenged in one form or another. Silver Lake, a heretofore quiet place to live, is not going to stay that way much longer. And it’s going to be a bad place to die for more than one person.
SOMETIMES THE WOLF is a beauteous and frightening joy to read from beginning to end, a tale in which the reader never knows quite what will happen from page to page or even from paragraph to paragraph. It is violent and unsettling in spots, quiet and heartbreaking in others. It also has a conclusion that echoes back through the novel and all that occurs, one that you probably won’t expect. If you are unfamiliar with Waite’s previous books --- all of which are stand-alone works --- you’ll want to set aside some time after reading his latest to catch up. Waite is a marvel.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 24, 2014