Season Of The Wolf by Jeff Mariotte; DarkFuse; 2012; 304 pgs; $16.99 US

This might be the most ambitious novel Jeff Mariotte has ever written.  Aside from a large cast of characters, Jeff has managed to work in the politically charged theme of climate change (as well as what may be a subtle commentary on recreational gun usage) in a tightly plotted thriller that pits man against nature (in the form of battles with deadly hybrid wolves), and man against man (in the form of tracking down a perverted serial killer).  If that isn’t enough to whet any dark fiction fan’s appetite, I should also mention that Mariotte has inserted a supernatural element into the tale that complements the action without overshadowing it.  Yes, there’s a lot going on in Season Of The Wolf, but we are in the hands of a pro and Mariotte pulls it off spectacularly!

Alex Converse is the heir to a coal mining fortune.  His family had owned the company for a couple of generations and Alex had worked there when he was younger, starting out at the bottom and moving up.  After an unfortunate cave-in that killed many men under his watch, Alex distanced himself from the company.  After his Dad had died, Alex took his assets and set up a foundation and began writing checks for good causes.  Now however, he’s decided to become actively involved in one cause that he feels particularly attached to: climate change.  He wants to make a documentary about the subject, and after hiring a cameraman and his girlfriend assistant, they head to Silver Gap, Colorado to document the destruction of the pines by beetles.  Their timing is unfortunate; as soon as they arrive a few townspeople go missing, and others are being attacked and eaten by wolves.

Alex soon comes under suspicion in the disappearance of the townspeople, but circumstances, as well as the support from a gorgeous local guide, soon turn suspicion into trust.  Then, Alex finds himself putting his life on the line to help protect the townspeople from the wolves.  The attacks are not only increasing but they are more bold,  and there appears to be a collective intelligence to them.

Though there are many players in Season Of The Wolf and it is heavily dependent on characterization, the novel is action packed and is as thrilling as it gets.  Mainstream readers should be advised that Mariotte pulls no punches when it comes to gore.  His scenes of the wolf attacks are very descriptive with his depictions of their bloody kills and the resulting severed body parts.  In addition, the comments, thoughts and deeds perpetrated by the crazed serial killer may turn the stomachs of more than a few readers, though it never travels into overly extreme territory.

Mariotte writes intelligently, treating his readers to strong narratives and topical themes without overly politicizing them.  While everyone may not agree with the authors take on a subject (in this case, climate change), they can’t help be entertained in the manner it is presented, and make no mistake, Season Of The Wolf is one hell of an entertaining novel.

Season Of The Wolf will go a long way to further Jeff Mariotte’s reputation as one of today’s best writers of horror and dark fiction.  It is highly recommended.

Jan 21, 2013

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