Last year when Dennis Tafoya dropped his white hot debut Dope Thief in our collective laps, few of us walked away without 2nd degree burns on our thighs at the very least. Now with The Wolves of Fairmount Park I find that my cock has fused to my zipper and that I can see all the way to the greasy yellow femur of my left leg. I’d be in a state of complete shock if I hadn’t already expected great things from Tafoya, but I’m sure as fuck dazed by just how much ambition there is in this beast. Dude is a fucking world-builder, plain and simple.
The story starts out with two suburban high school kids shot in a drive-by in front of a known drug den. One dies and the other’s left in a coma while seemingly everyone is wondering just what the fuck the two well-to-do kids were doing there. On the case are two very different men. First there’s Detective Danny Martinez, a former neighborhood kid with old connections to the street that run deep. Also with his ear to the ground is Orlando Donovan, the uncle of the coma kid and full-time heroin junkie using his knowledge of the drug world to find the shooter and, hopefully, win some respect from the boy’s father, Orlando’s cop half-brother Brendan. Naturally, both men find themselves in serious fucking trouble once the body count rises and all the facts start pointing toward one unlikely man.
If that description makes Wolves sound like a typical mystery then the Nerd apologizes – because typical this shit ain’t. The world of the book is wonderfully specific and impressively vast. From the Main Line down to Roxborough, every location has its own distinct feel and smell. The cast of characters is rich and diverse with nary a character that doesn’t carve their own image into your brain. And though there are mysteries to solve in Wolves, the storytelling is somehow both complex and refreshingly organic at the same time.
But excuse the Nerd, dear reader, for he grows weary of all this high-minded bullshit talk – let’s talk a bit about the genre goods on display in Wolves. I know I said similar shit in my review of Dope Thief but holy shit can Tafoya write action scenes with the best of them – like Lehane-and-Huston-best-of-them. On these pages you can hear the plastic tinkling of spent shotgun shells hitting the pavement in the wake of a reverberating blast, smell the burnt skin and tangy blood of a recent victim, feel the sting of smoke in your eyes. But what the fuck am I doing? I should leave the kick-ass action prose to Tafoya – dude’s got it down fucking pat.
So if you like your social realism heavily salted with action, suspense, and all the other good old-fashioned genre thrills, this shit is for you. Tafoya once again finds that wonderful balance between emotionally charged, character-driven drama and action-packed thriller that only the best in the crime genre seem to ever achieve, only this time the scope is far more fucking epic than Dope Thief. If you can’t dig it, we’re no longer friends.