Shadow of the Wolf Tree
A Woods Cop Mystery with Grady Service by Joseph Heywood
Review: Michigan Department of Natural Resources "Woods Cop" Grady Service investigates a number of mysterious activities that seem to be centered around a secret, gated, and heavily secured compound in the middle of the Upper Peninsula in Shadow of the Wolf Tree, the seventh mystery in this series by Joseph Heywood.
Out fishing one day with his buddy, Service's dog uncovers two skulls that turn out to be some 80 years old. The discovery leads to more bones, which the coroner says are of two men who were murdered, one quite violently. Separately, a number of incidents in the woods are troubling, including a trip-wire attached to a shotgun that injures his buddy and a colleague who may lose her leg after being caught in a sophisticated wolf trap. All trails seem to lead to Art Lake, an extensive piece of private property that is owned by one of the country's largest charitable foundations, one that few in the area know much about … and those that do know better than to intrude on its residents.
From a crime novel reader's perspective, there are a number of problems with Shadow of the Wolf Tree, not the least of which is the complete lack of continuity from what happens at the start of the book through to how it ends. Plot points are introduced, explored, then seemingly tossed aside or forgotten, their original reason for being never explained, their resolution (if any) unknown or apparently unimportant. And there are a lot of these. As for Service, he's basically working on three simultaneous cases where, as he puts it, "the details got too confused to keep organized in his head." It's no different for the reader. There's the Paint River homicide, the skull case, and the wolf tree case. Later — like 200 pages later — it seems little progress has been made. "None of the cases were coming together, but Grady Service could feel in his gut that they were winnowing possibilities, and often this was all the progress you could hope for until a new piece of evidence or new meaning for something old suddenly lit the day and pointed you to an inescapable conclusion." His investigation may mirror real life, but the numerous elements to each of the cases — and Service's meticulous following up on every conceivable lead — make it far too convoluted for what is essentially a relatively simple whodunit mystery.
Which is really quite a shame, because it's easy to become immersed in the setting and comfortable with the large cast of characters … the annoying Tuesday Friday being the sole exception. There are some thrills in the final few pages, but the overwhelming perception here is of a weakly plotted, meandering story with little sense of accomplishment — either by Grady Service or the reader — in the end.
Acknowledgment: Globe Pequot Press provided a copy of Shadow of the Wolf Tree for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Lyons Press (Hardcover), October 2008
ISBN-13: 9781599214283; ISBN-10: 1599214288
Location(s) referenced in Shadow of the Wolf Tree: Upper Peninsula, Michigan
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Shadow of the Wolf Tree by Joseph Heywood — A Woods Cop Mystery with Grady Service
Publisher: Lyons Press
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: May 2010
List Price: $16.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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