This action-packed, sweat-soaked, robbery-gone-wrong would make an amazing movie in the Reservoir Dogs genre. It certainly makes for a damn fine white-knuckle ride in the written form. Author Robert White plunges you straight into the deep end, hip-high in blunt force trauma, kidney-pulverising punishment, and the kind of involuntary amputations that’d make Quentin Tarantino wince.
This is stylish writing, a cut above conventional pulp fiction. The story slices back and forth through its own timeline in a zigzag narrative of manic pandemonium. Jack, our protagonist, does his best to extricate himself and his long-lost brother from the clutches of a savvy FBI agent – while keeping the $1 million loot from a bank raid and evading the enraged pursuit of their homicidal previous partners who include an extremely fatal femme. Along the way, bystanders collect the occasional 9mm shell in the brainpan, and the brutality ratchets upwards along with the body count.
In the end, escaping the law won’t be Jack’s major problem: staying alive looks like a tall order.
Far more than a straightforward robbery romp, Wolves is a cleverly constructed character piece, which puts its protagonist through ten types of trauma as he tries to secure the loot and stay one step ahead of his pursuers. Secrets from Jack’s family history are sneakily revealed amid the anarchic violence, and that background gives this tale unusually robust foundations; look beyond the blood spatter and there is a moral core to the story. But it’s all done by light-touch implication in brief interludes; nothing to slow the pounding pace of the deadly pursuit.
Some readers may struggle with the non-linear narrative – and even I wondered if any human could really survive the levels of punishment that Jack endured. But some of the sequences are so convincingly constructed that they overcome such minor hesitations. There’s a brilliant scenario in which an unwilling Jack must drink himself insensible in a series of seedy bars, while being carnally tormented by his voluptuous adversary. You almost can smell the whisky sours and the scent of desperation. It’s edge-of-the-seat stuff indeed.
Reviewed by Rowena Hoseason
When You Run With Wolves by Robert White is available as an ebook and paperback
(You may also find it attributed to Robb T White)
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