Title: Little Wolves
Author: Thomas Maltman. He is the author of a previous book, the historical novel The Night Birds.
Genre: Mystery and maybe a little Horror
Summary: Set on the Minnesota prairie in the late 1980s during a drought season that’s pushing family farms to the brink, Little Wolves features the intertwining stories of a father searching for answers after his son commits a heinous murder, and a pastor’s wife (and washed-out scholar of early Anglo-Saxon literature) who has returned to the town for mysterious reasons of her own. A penetrating look at small-town America, Little Wolves weaves together elements of folklore and Norse mythology while being driven by a powerful murder mystery; a page-turning literary triumph.
Creepy books are not really my thing, but I do love a good mystery. “Little Wolves” managed to make my skin crawl a few times but never to the point where I was ready to put it down. The storyline and the main characters are all pretty dark, though in a very intriguing way. It was a quick read and had me guessing right to the end. I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it.
What I enjoyed the most was the author’s ability to weave legends and mythology into the book and keep it flowing. It added an extra element to the storyline that made it feel enriched and complete.
Not a must read, but definitely a page-turner.
“Little Wolves” is a series of mysteries, some of identity, some of place, some mysterious only to the readers. With a book that is at times overwritten and overwrought, it’s surprising to find also that Maltman is occasionally careless with his language. These are little things, sure, but the sorts of things that keep me from being able to fully submerge into a book.
A small – but annoyingly consistent – issue for me is found in the title itself. The little wolves are coyotes. I’d never heard of coyotes referred to that way before and the author was never really able to convince me that this is a phrase that people use. But every time I read the word ‘wolf’ or ‘wolves’ I’d have to force myself to change my mental image – not wolves. Coyotes. Similarly, I had difficulty seeing the characters, or anchoring them in time. The book feels like a western, and yet is decidedly modern in some ways. The reader is told early on that the story takes place in the 1980s, but other than that one telling, the book doesn’t feel like any specific time.
With all of this, of course I’m going to give it a low grade, right? Actually, no. Although the book continues to throw up questions long past the time we readers should have been figuring out some answers, there is a lot here to hold interest. Enough that I suspect I’m going to like it a lot more upon reading it a second time. I might be wrong, and a year from now I’ll wish I had given it a harder grade.
Read Instead: Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. Another family mystery that feels like a western, this was one of my favorite books of 2001. Or Koko by Peter Straub, an exceptionally well-written mystery thriller that involves questions of identity.
“Little Wolves” contains many elements of a good Gothic novel. The author combines folklore and fantasy with crime, terror, and the horror of disturbing death and suffering. Some images stay with me as I write. I can almost taste and smell them. Yet, I liked this book.
Here, two stories are intertwined. The minister’s wife, who has a mysterious but gentle way about her, has been drawn to a small Minnesota town by a longing to separate truth from fairytale surrounding her birth.
In the same religiously conservative town, a farmer discovers that his son has slain a police officer. The boy was difficult, but would he commit murder?
Separately, the minister’s wife and the killer’s father search to find answers to the mysteries each has been pondering. In the shadow of a mountain, among coyotes and cadavers, the man makes a disturbing discovery. The minister’s wife finds that she is more than a gentle, meager soul. The two stories collide in unimagined elements of terror and horror. The aftermath is surprising.
From the first chapter I was captivated. The secret that the author created was marvelous. It kept you wanting more. I found it hard to put down. The story line was vague but kept you reading because you wanted to know what the story was. The characters were sweet and a bit mysterious. As the story went on the author did a wonderful job of building the end however when I got to the final chapters it was a bit chaotic and I had to re-read a few chapters because I thought I had missed something. I ended the book a bit confused. The scene became very cryptic however, minus a few chapters of chaos, I enjoyed this book.