Vissarion Lom is an investigator, and a damned good one. His career advancements seem limited, given his unwillingness to care about what his superiors think of him. Though he's getting the cold shoulder from others in his area because of his direct and impulsive nature, he's surprised when he receives orders to report to the capital and track down criminal/terrorist Josef Kantor.
Once he arrives in Mirgorod, Lom discovers that corruption runs deep at all levels of society, including the Secret Police. Lom has to use all of his wits to maneuver the twisting travails of life in Mirgorod, not to tip his hand, and keep those who are watching him from knowing all he has learned. The dangers in this totalitarian state are numerous, and his criminal target may be the least of his worries.
"Readers who love a Russian component in their literature will be pleased with the undercurrent of Russianness. Those who have no care for or understanding of Russia and its history will be captivated by the strong story and compelling characters. It is a major win for Peter Higgins."
In WOLFHOUND CENTURY, author Peter Higgins gives us a world eerily similar to 1940s Russia under the bloodlust of Stalin, yet for all of his descriptions and declarations, he never once uses the word “Russia.” So solid is his craft, however, that this vision is implanted in your head naturally. The land of the Vlast bears striking similarities to Russia, but there are enough differences to make it mystical and frightening. You only need to look at the books Higgins was reading (found on his website's Bookshelf page) as he wrote WOLFHOUND CENTURY to see just why such a Russian flavor covers the novel.
The moon has been fractured, sitting in two pieces in the sky, a reminder of a deadly war in heaven from which stone angels fell to earth. The forest is somehow connected to Lom and the piece of angel embedded in his forehead, and it holds the key to the survival of the Vlast. Deep in the forest, a living stone angel has fallen, and the effects are damning.
The characters within the book, especially Lom, are outstandingly crafted, fully realized three-dimensional people. No straight-up heroes are to be found here. Within the dreary, rain-slicked streets of Mirgorod, no one is pure. Higgins presents his people with flaws, making them more true, and bringing life to a story that starts confusingly but builds tempo and intensity to hook readers and hold them.
Higgins excels at description. His ability to turn a phrase is exquisite, and he paints vivid images in your mind. At the same time, he weaves a fantastic story that is part history, part fantasy, and part spy novel. It has a dated, pre-Cold War feel without sacrificing the excitement and tempo of a modern Bond film.
If there is one stumbling block, it is that the ending drops on you in a heartbeat, leaving you staring at the last paragraph again and wondering just what happened. Much of what has been built up is left unresolved, and after groaning, one begins to understand that a sequel must be in the works.
Despite its abrupt end, WOLFHOUND CENTURY is astonishing. Readers who love a Russian component in their literature will be pleased with the undercurrent of Russianness. Those who have no care for or understanding of Russia and its history will be captivated by the strong story and compelling characters. It is a major win for Peter Higgins.
Reviewed by Stephen Hubbard on April 26, 2013