When high school student Sheri Beckman mysteriously disappears, her boyfriend, Tony Shepherd, finds himself in a dubious partnership with the streetwise smart aleck, Charles Wolfe, in order to find out what happened to her and to stop a vicious spree killer. Subtle influences of noir and Hardy Boys mysteries influence Counios and Gane’s compelling young adult murder mystery in Saskatchewan’s queen city. Along Comes a Wolfe takes the reader on a journey through the quintessential world of coming of age teenagers from the safe, yet banal suburbs, bustling high school hallways, busy shopping malls, and parties out of town, but also into the macabre domain of the killer in hollow, abandoned industrial buildings and construction sites on the edge of the city – taking Tony further away from his safe and ordinary life.
Tony Shepherd is driven to find out what happened to Sheri and yet at the heart of the story is Tony’s conflicted relationship with the enigma that is Charlie Wolfe. In contrast to the levelheaded Tony, Charlie is a troubled and mischievous youth from the wrong side of the tracks with a sardonic sense of humour and contempt towards authority. Yet Charlie is undeniably brilliant and it is his inquisitiveness and willingness to bend the rules that lead them both on the trail towards the killer and discovering what happened to Sheri. Much like the archetypal pairing of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, Counios and Gane provide their readers with a remarkable contest of wits between Tony, who is sensible and empathetic, and his eccentric, emotionally detached counterpart.
There is also a sharp contrast between the worlds that Tony and Charlie come from. Tony is a dedicated student, athletic, handsome, popular, and comes from a supportive household with a loving family. Charlie lives in a trailer park and is virtually abandoned by his absent mother. Nevertheless, Charlie is in his element in the streets and harbours a history of petty crime that consists of trespassing, breaking and entering, theft, and arson – skills that are deemed criminal, yet crucial in their search for Sheri. Through their investigation of Sheri’s disappearance both protagonists gain an appreciation of where the other has come from and what their disparate worldviews have to offer.
Along Comes a Wolfe’s strengths lie in its well-drawn protagonists, but it also shines in illuminating the feeling of a teenager’s world of innocence and security being transformed into an adult world of secrets and danger. Tony Shepherd and Charles Wolfe are contemporary descendants of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew whose maturing insight and curiosity about this adult world leads them into deeper mysteries, fantastical adventure, and excitement. Yet this world has consequences and horrors that neither of them is prepared for and with Sheri’s disappearance comes feelings of loss and irrevocable change. Along Comes a Wolfe is a book for young adults and is steeped in the adolescent tradition of the Hardy Boys mysteries, but only just so. With a deliberate spree killer on the loose and the scruffy, unorthodox Charlie, Counios and Gane take the young adult mystery novel in exciting new directions and imbue a classic formula with just the right amount of realism.
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