Wolf by Mo Hayder (Grove Atlantic, May 6th, 2014)-Wolf begins with a couple who have lost track of their young daughter while picking flowers in the woods. When they find her, she mentions a dog (it’s always a dog), and a man (it’s always a man), and of course the dog is injured and won’t she help the poor man with his dog? But it’s not what you think, and later, as she cuddles her teddy, Buttons, safe in the car with her parents, the little girl thinks about the words that were on a bit of paper attached to the dog’s collar: “Help us.”
64 year old Oliver Anchor-Ferrers has just been through surgery to replace his heart valves, and as he contemplates his wife, Matilda, and his adult daughter, Lucia, he also contemplates his own mortality. They’ve come to their beautiful Victorian home they’ve named The Turrets, high on a hill in the Mendips, so that Oliver can recover from his surgery. Lucia is brooding, as usual. It seems she’s never recovered fully since her ex-boyfriend was brutally murdered 14 years ago, not too far from The Turrets, actually, by a madman named Minnet Kable. When Matilda finds something near the house that calls to mind that long ago crime, she’s understandably terrified, and when two men show up, claiming to be police investigating the death of a nearby woman, all hell breaks loose in the Anchor-Ferrers household, calling up old crimes and new vendettas.
Meanwhile, DI Jack Caffery has gone off the wire to investigate the long ago disappearance of his brother Ewan that has haunted him for so very long. A new lead has come up, and The Walking Man seems to have valuable info, but it comes at a price. The Walking Man wants Caffery to look into something, and suddenly, Caffery has in his possession a little dog named Bear that has two little words written on its collar.
Mo Hayder’s thrillers are never anything less than superb, and Wolf was a one sitting read for me. The narrative alternates between the events in the Turrets and Caffery’s infuriating search for Bear’s owners, which will of course lead him to this family that needs his help so desperately. The Anchor-Ferrers are being held hostage in their own home, and their captors have a very specific motive, but they’re taking their time revealing it to Oliver and his family. Ultimate fear is their goal, and for this family, their ordeal is just getting started. The scenes in The Turrets are nothing short of terrifying, and Hayder builds the dread slowly and carefully, layering in important clues along the way. Who are these men and what do they want with this family? For Jack, will The Walking Man’s information finally lead him to his brother’s killer, and if so, will it offer the relief he so desperately needs from a lifetime of agony? This one has so many twists and turns it will give you whiplash, more than a few surprises, and it’s relentlessly clever. Hayder never makes her characters one dimensional, and this includes the bad guys, so be prepared for quite a tense ride. I can’t wait for the next Caffery book.