Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by W. D. Gagliani
Published by Leisure Books
What do you do when you’re a werewolf? Do you lock yourself away in some remote cabin in the woods and hope to God no one ever comes near you lest you kill them? Do you get on with your life and enjoy being the fuzz-faced feral killer? Nick Lupo has a different solution: He became a cop who takes a few days off every month so he can romp in the woods and get some animalistic loving with his (human) girlfriend. But, like most novels, nothing really goes to plan, does it? That’s the basis for W.D. Gagliani’s follow-up to Wolf’s Trap, Wolf’s Gambit.
The story centers around Nick Lupo, a city cop on his way out to an Indian reservation for a little fuzzy fun and relaxation. Unfortunately for him, his relaxing weekend is hampered by a series of brutal murders and disappearances on the reservation, all seemingly tied to the construction of a new casino. And all the evidence points toward an animal. A big, hairy animal. Another werewolf, to be exact. In fact, all evidence points to there being not just one, but a pack of three of them to challenge Nick for dominance. What follows is soaked in blood, a good deal of mystery, lots of sex, and just a dash of mayhem thrown in for good measure.
Gagliani is at his best when dealing with the backstory of the main character, and with the enigmatic “Mr. XYZ,” who will drive the reader crazy trying to figure out who he is and what he’s really after. His scene’s of brutal werewolf carnage combined with the slow-burn tension of Mr. XYZ’s own perverse delights are bound to make the reader squirm, and work well with the story. Far from gratuitous, the deaths are just as brutal as they need to be to convey the desired message, and the reader gets to revel in every gore-soaked moment.
Shortcomings of this novel are few, but relevant. First, while he does make a joke out of Nick Lupo’s last name, having a werewolf named Lupo just seems trite. Again, he does manage to make it work, but the name just kind of sticks out. The other complaint comes from the well-written scenes in which the beasts attack their prey. Sure, they’re scary, and sure, Gagliani does a fine job of building the tension. But the scenes seem to be over too quickly. Perhaps if he drew them out a little more, played with the readers’ nerves for just a bit longer, he could bring them to screaming fits.
The two minor shortcomings aside, Wolf’s Gambit is a well-written piece of fiction that contains scenes of real horror. With well-realized characters and a plot that’s tight and sharp, it’s a very pleasurable read.
4 out of 5
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