Nicholas Pekearo,
The Wolfman
(Tor, 2008)

I hate wasted potential.

For Nicholas Pekearo, his potential was for writing. A young man in his late 20s, he had a few completed novels and others in the works. But the dedicated New Yorker also had a desire to give back to his community, so he volunteered as an auxiliary city police officer. Auxiliary officers, it should be noted, are not paid or given benefits, do not get bulletproof vests or weapons. That didn't stop Pekearo and his partner, Eugene Marshalik, from confronting a gunman who had just murdered a restaurant worker; they pursued and delayed the killer until the armed cops arrived, but in the process both auxiliary officers were shot and killed.

Both are heroes, and their deaths are tragic enough. But what gets me is, Pekearo had a damn promising career as a writer ahead of him, and now he'll never have the chance to tell those stories. He never even got to see his first novel, this one, published.

But I'm glad I got to read it. The Wolfman is a very good first book, and I would have welcomed more from Pekearo's vivid imagination.

The story is about Marlowe Higgins, a Vietnam War vet who inherited his family's curse and turns -- rather painfully -- into a werewolf on the night of each full moon. Wracked by guilt for the deaths he causes each month, Marley considers suicide but lacks the nerve. Finally, he learns to exert some level of control over the beast; although he is never aware of its actions at the time, he manages to "aim" its bloodlust at specific targets. So he becomes something of a vigilante, drifting from town to town and targeting criminals -- mostly killers and rapists -- that the police can't catch. With the wolf's finely honed senses, it's no trick to find the bad guy that conventional police methods might not be able to find ... and the trial and conviction are never a problem, because there's never enough left to arrest.

Marley has finally found a place to settle down for a while. He has a home, a job, maybe even a couple of friends -- until a serial killer rolls into his neck of the woods and, for the first time, his lupine senses fail and the unthinkable occurs, throwing Marley's life into turmoil.

Pekearo had planned to turn this book into a series -- sadly, now, never to be -- but The Wolfman still is a complete story that won't leave readers hanging. It's a savory paranormal thriller; although the identity of the killer becomes apparent to readers far sooner than Marley catches on, the people here -- including a fairly broad collection of supporting characters -- make this book a deeply satisfying reading experience.

And, while Pekearo's voice was unfortunately silenced, I hope some of his other completed writings surface someday.

review by
Tom Knapp

8 November 2008

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