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DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

WOLF'S TRAP
William D. Gagliani
Yard Dog Press / $18.00
ISBN: 1893687449

Cover WOLF'S TRAP is written like a screenplay: quick cuts between different points of view, rapid scenes, short chapters, and a tendency toward snappy dialogue. Set in Milwaukee and the wilds north of the city, this werewolf-detective novel has some strengths, but it never gels into a strong book. Any suspense, supernatural or otherwise, needs depth of character, tight plotting, or -- preferably -- both to sustain it. WOLF'S TRAP, gets close on both counts, but not close enough. The promising plot can't even be completed without the addition of a number of new characters (bad guys, a lady doctor/love interest, and a stalwart Indian) two-thirds of the way through.

There's an old adage about a writer having to love his characters -- good and bad -- in order to convey them well. One gets the feeling that the author is fond of his protagonist and antagonist of WOLF'S TRAP, but not really committed to either. Nor can he, or the hero, ever quite decide if the primary victim, Corinne, was acceptable as a person despite being a sex worker. Part of the problem is protagonist/cop/werewolf Dominic "Nick" Lupo's naivety. He's a veteran homicide detective, but he's shocked at lipstick traces on female genitals and knows nothing about porn or prostitutes. Lupo ("lupo" -- get it?) is pretty naive for a werewolf, too. After many years as a lycanthrope, he still understands little of what he calls his "condition." As a young pup, he read voraciously on lycanthropy, but evidently never discovered screenwriter Curt Siodmak made up the werewolvian connection to the full moon and sensitivity to silver bullets in 1941. Lupo's pretty naive for a human being in general, too. He's totally unaware of his feelings for Corinne (a high-class hooker and neighbor) until she's murdered. He's burdened by the guilt of murdering (while in bestial-mode) his lover Caroline and has gone without companionship, affection, warmth, or sex for years, but no one, including his closest friends, seems to think of him as anything less than well-adjusted. Martin, the psycho-killer, has plenty of scientifically grounded reasons to be a homicidal maniac, but his character is still just as flat as the hero's.

There's a good idea here (murderous psychopath with kink for lipstick and blowjobs seeks vengeance on detective/werewolf) and some readers may be able to overlook its flaws. First novelist Gagliani shows potential, but his plot and characterizations would have been well served by a veteran editor. Such a vet-ed might also have smoothed out some other rough spots. This review is based on a galley and not the finished book, so there is hope that passages like these have been taken care of:
-- "Old secrets and new intertwined like coiled serpents."
-- "...the face of Caroline Stewart shone... out of the darkness, which enveloped him with the memory of her scent."
-- "...the blonde woman whose extremities were being penetrated by one male's aroused fullness and the other's slithery tongue. While one male thrust rapidly in and out of her loins...". -- (Review originally appeared in DarkEcho #27)

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Copyright © 2003 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.