Book Review:Wolf’s Bluff

Wolf’s Bluff
By W.D. Gagliani
Leisure Paperback/323 pages
$7.99 US/$9.99 CAN
ISBN: 978-0-8439-6348-9

Wolf’s Bluff is W.D. Gagliani’s third werewolf novel. It follows the Stoker-Nominated Wolf’s Trap (2004; paperback released in 2006) and its first sequel, Wolf’s Gambit (2009.)

In previous interviews, Gagliani has referred to his novels as “Northwoods noir,” since all of them take place, mostly, in the Northwoods area of Wisconsin. The noir part comes from the mixture of horror, dark fantasy, hardboiled mystery, crime, sex, and violence of the tales.

In short, Wolf’s Bluff continues the genre-splicing of the previous novels, and Gagliani delivers another gritty and graphic novel that fans will enjoy for its suspense, tension, and supernatural horror.

Wolf’ Bluff continues the tale of Nick Lupo, who as a young man was bitten by a werewolf and thus became one himself. Now a Milwaukee cop, Lupo has worked hard to keep his inner wolf under control, mostly by self-will, but also by monthly visits to the sparsely populated northern parts of Wisconsin so the creature can run free and not harm anyone.

In Wolf’s Trap, Lupo’s secret was discovered by a serial killer, and that killer hunted down not only Lupo, but those close to him as well. In Wolf’s Gambit, Lupo was tracking down another serial killer, but things became complicated when, in the same Northwoods location, a group of mercenaries were hired by a mysterious figure to prevent the construction of an Indian casino. The mercenaries were not only well-armed, but well-clawed as well, which led to some shape-shifting confrontations.

Wolf’ Bluff picks up soon afterwards. The casino is now built, but Lupo suspects that there is another independent werewolf on the loose in the area who may be responsible for local deaths by “animal attacks.” However, because Lupo stopped the mercenaries, he has now gotten the attention of their corporate masters. The mercenaries were part of the Blackwater/Xe –like paramilitary organization Wolfpaw, and now Wolfpaw has sent a special unit into Wisconsin to make sure Lupo and those who are close to him take their knowledge of Wolfpaw’s secret lycanthropic abilities (or is that weaponry?) with them to an early grave.

This novel, like its predecessors, is a lot more complex in terms of character interactions, character’s history, narrative style, and theme than this review can capture. The novel intertwines returning characters and new characters, and even hints at characters that may appear in future novels. But Wolf’s Bluff certainly stands on its own as a hard-hitting novel (or in this case, a hard claw-swiping novel.)

Gagliani is skilled at creating mystery and tension and mixing them with traditional horror elements. He often employees a sense of literary misdirection that, once revealed to the readers, makes them feel a strong emotional impact that would have been lessened if narrated in a more direct manner.

Wolf’s Bluff is recommended to horror fans in general, but even more so for those who enjoy lust and bloodlust with their werewolves.

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