The Pack: Winter Kill
Trade Paper, 210 pages, $12.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
The hyper and hairy face off against skinheads in Mike Oliveri’s The Pack: Winter Kill. Werewolves defend their turf against mercenary gun runners and neo-Nazis. To build a literary pyramid of who is the most dastardly, it is easy to see that the canine inclined are merely doggedly following instincts. The White Supremacists are obviously mega-villains. The armament traders, led by an African American, are motivated by venal economics: A legitimate excuse for taking out whoever gets in their way? Certainly not. Morally speaking, the lycanthropes are top dogs. Oliveri has fun playing off the drive behind each of the faction’s actions. There is a lot of background and build up before the final dramatic reckoning. It is worth the wait to sit tight for this well written inevitable crossing of paths.
Looking for Bigfoot in the mountains of Minnesota turns lethal for a husband and wife. They are innocent interlopers shot to death during a business exchange involving the neo-Nazis and mercenaries. The aftermath of the killings brings in FBI special agent Angela Wallace. She smells a rat, but gets involved with a mammal of greater size; one that possesses an equal amount of rabid inclination. During her investigation, Agent Wallace confronts Cole Tyler and his family. Cole is the clan’s alpha male. He is bemused by the determined special agent, so there is a set-up for a potential craggy romance. Their situation is established as being fraught with tension; it is therefore likely that the two characters will engage in more conflicted interplay in subsequent books in the series.
For much of the story, the mix of the supernatural with crime novel and thriller doesn’t meld into a cohesive whole. Each subgenre stays a tad too delineated to blend seamlessly. There is a long stretch before the final shoot-out where all factions converge. The elements have been in place for this to happen; it just takes a while for the culmination to occur. Once it does, however, there is a rip-roaring tossing together of predators (human and other species) and law enforcement agents. Gunfire, claws, and teeth all erupt in one wild melee of mayhem.
Mike Oliveri delivers the climax and denouement with great skill. A recipient of the Bram Stoker Award for his first novel, The Deadliest of the Species, he has created some promising characters and situations in The Pack. It will be interesting to follow their trajectories in the next installment of the Tyler family saga.