I have a penchant for reading the book before seeing the movie. Years ago, I picked up Sleepers, by Lorenzo Carcaterra, and loved it. So when I saw his latest was up on NetGalley, I was eager to read it.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Vincent Marelli is convinced a terrorist attack on a commercial flight was directed at him. After all, he’s the one who bowed to his wife’s wishes and allowed her and their two daughters to fly commercial instead of on a private jet. Someone else may have been responsible for their deaths, but they’re on his head, for going against his gut.
He lays out a plan for the other organized crime syndicates that will bring him his family’s killer and eliminate the threat the terrorist organizations pose to their business. Convincing them takes some doing, but he succeeds. Now all he has to do is show the terrorists just who he is.
They will learn to fear the Wolf.
I haven’t enjoyed a mob book this much since I read The Godfather for the first time. It’s deliciously bloody and violent. The world of The Wolf is one bound by politics and rules. Everyone has them, the syndicates, the terror cells, the drug and gun runners. Vincent plays on family loyalties to bring in the Yakuza and the Triads, knowing how important family is. The others agree to maintain the status quo while they watch from the sidelines as Vincent works with the Camorra to take on Raza, a terrorist bent on out-glorying Bin Laden.
Raza’s an interesting guy. He’s wicked smart, charismatic, and doesn’t get his hands dirty. He keeps you guessing right along with the rest of the gangsters. Does he believe in his cause, the one he touts to his recruits? Or does his anger stem from something much more personal?
Probably my favorite thing about The Wolf was the inclusion of Angela. Known throughout the criminal underworld as The Strega (Italian for witch) she’s as ruthless and ruthlessly intelligent as her male counterparts – and she’s treated with the deference and respect she deserves. You do not cross the Strega. Unlike Raza, she has no problem wading into the muck. She’s got as much blood on her hands as Vincent, and she’s not sorry for it. Here’s a woman who is truly living in a man’s world and not only is she flourishing, she’s poised to control them all some day.
I had a difficult time believing a man as young as Vincent would have amassed as much wealth and power as he has, given that he wasn’t born into the life, but rather entered it as a young teenager. His cunning and take no prisoners approach is something you’d expect from one hardened by years, possibly decades, of battles. It was disconcerting to be reminded that he was only in his mid-thirties.
What bothered me most, though, was the lack of evidence that the terrorist attack that killed his wife and daughters was actually a shot across the bow at Vincent. And by lack, I mean lack. There was none, at least that I remember. It seemed built off Vincent’s assumptions and gut feeling that someone had known half of his family would be on that plane, and that their deaths was a message to him.
Despite that not-so-minor issue, the story is full of so many pluses you can forgive it for now. The best kind of twists are the ones that leaving you blinking in disbelief, and The Wolf had several. Everything I anticipated didn’t come to fruition, and the things I never would have expected flew out of left field.
The ending is such that you have to wonder if this is just the beginning for Vincent and the rest of the syndicates. Are they going to pony up and take on the terrorists, or are we going to forever be left to wonder what happens next?
Copy of The Wolf: A Novel provided by the publisher in exchange for review.