The Saint of Wolves and Butchers
Alex Grecian
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The Saint of Wolves and Butchers
Alex Grecian
Putnam
Hardcover
400 pages
April 2018
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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In a thriller that marries past to present, Alex Grecian articulates how deeply rooted the horrors of Nazi Germany remain for both survivors and perpetrators. Seeking shelter in anonymity, Dr. Rudolph Bormann--a war criminal--arrives in Kansas in 1951. He is warmly greeted by his friend Jacob Meyer, and deposited in his new residence in small-town Paradise Flats.

Many years later, Rudy (now known as Rudolph Goodman) is a venerable ninety-two and well-established in the community. The church he has built is a hub for many local activities. A stranger comes to town, a quiet, educated man with a Tibetan Mastiff named Bear. A huge animal with black, shaggy hair, Bear cannot bark but is trained to respond to his master's commands. Travis Roan, a Nazi hunter, has come in search of his father, Ransom, who has not been heard from since his arrival in Kansas. It is Roan's intention to quietly enter the area and find his father.

Roan's first encounter is with State Trooper Skottie Foster, who queries the stranger about his plans, keeping a safe distance until she is assured neither man nor animal is a threat. Skottie is a divorced African-American woman currently living with her mother and 10-year-old daughter, Maddy. She is struggling with acceptance, a female in a traditionally male field, not to mention the lack of black hires in a predominately white state. Travis has captured her interest, his passion for unearthing Nazis a fascinating idea. She accompanies Roan on his first interview: the daughter of an elderly witness who reported Bormann to the foundation Roan's family has formed to run war criminals and their ilk to ground.

The sheriff of Burden County, Kurt Goodman, is far less welcoming to the intruder roaming his domain. Goodman is inclined to blame Roan for the odd deaths in his usually peaceful territory, including a violently murdered teacher and a corpse smoldering in a burning tractor on an isolated strip of land. Goodman resents Skottie for her interest in his business outside her own jurisdiction; the trooper is unwilling to ignore the recent spate of killings, fearing Travis may come to harm.

The alchemy of evil permeates Paradise Flats, from the massive, walled grounds of Purity First Church to the closed-mouth residents joining in worship and service, true believers--including deputies who do Sheriff Goodman's bidding without question. Roan moves closer to his goal, confident a visit to the church compound will bear fruit. Meanwhile, Skottie straddles personal and police duties, maintaining communication with Roan as he approaches the church compound and protecting her family from more urgent threats.

The landscape is vast, the man who came to Paradise Flats in 1951 carrying on his lifetime's mission, the past nurtured by a fertile environment and willing conspirators. Blinded to reason, Sheriff Goodman continues to blame Travis for the gruesome murders, unable to understand the surging violence in his jurisdiction or Trooper Foster's insistence on standing up for Roan. The Saint of Wolves and Butchers is drenched in the blood of history's carnage, a contemporary version of an ancient evil. Other than the monster at the novel's core, Grecian's characters are fully fleshed, humanly flawed, tempered by good intentions.

The message is powerful, a subtle warning of how easily past horrors can be rekindled. No matter how harrowing the circumstances, Roan's wonderful Bear softens the blows of iniquity, a harbinger of hope as the howling wolves push at the gates of history.



Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Luan Gaines, 2018

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