cover image Country of the Bad Wolfes

Country of the Bad Wolfes

James Carlos Blake. Cinco Puntos, $16.95 trade paper (484p) ISBN 978-1-935955-03-0

Blake's newest (after The Killings of Stanley Ketchel) is an immersive and complex epic set in New England, Mexico, and the American Southwest and spanning three generations of the Wolfe family, a rough-and-tumble clan sired in 1828 by pirate captain Roger Blake Wolfe, whose execution shortly after the birth of his twin boys, Samuel and John Roger, starts the book off with a violent start. The brothers' paths separate when Samuel accidentally kills a watchman and signs up for the Army under an alias to avoid prosecution, and John Roger goes to Dartmouth, from whence he graduates with a law degree. Both brothers end up in Mexico—Samuel deserts the Army and John Roger accepts a position as a sales agent at his wife's uncle's trading company—, but neither can escape the curse of the Wolfe blood, which persists across generations and geography. Murder, politics, and illegitimate children fuel this engrossing and wonderfully realized saga. The familial relationships are deep and sometimes difficult to trace (though a Wolfe genealogy at the beginning of the book helps a little), but Blake methodically moves his narrative forward to the tragic (but inevitable) conclusion. While he reveals little of his protagonists' inner lives, readers will be curious to see what tragedies befall the Wolfes and whether the family will be redeemed. (Jan.)