Author: Jason Starr
Series: The Pack #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Berkley UK
Published: UK: 26th April 2012
Source: Review copy from publisher
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First SentenceSimon Burns woke up feeling something nibbling on the back of his neck.
When Simon Burns is fired from his job without warning, he takes on the role of stay-at-home dad for his three-year-old son. But his reluctance pushes his already strained marriage to the limit. In the nestled playgrounds of the Upper West Side, Simon harbors a simmering rage at his boss’s betrayal.
Things take a turn when he meets a tight-knit trio of dads at the playground. They are different from other men Simon has met, stronger and more confident, more at ease with the darker side of life-and soon Simon is lured into their mix. But after a guys’ night out gets frighteningly out of hand, Simon feels himself sliding into a new nightmarish reality.
As he experiences disturbing changes in his body and his perceptions, he starts to suspect that when the guys welcomed him to their “pack,” they were talking about much more than male bonding. And as he falls prey to his basest instincts, Simon must accept that werewolves exist if he is to turn the tides of his fortune…
To my knowledge, Jason Starr is primarily a crime-thriller author, so the initial press release for The Pack deeply intrigued me. An urban fantasy thriller without all of the will-they-won’t-they romance of many, many other urban fantasies out there? And it’s about werewolves? Sinister ones? Yes please! Thankfully I was not disappointed, despite not really knowing what to expect but I enjoyed reading it and I must agree with Lee Child: ‘Jason Starr is hypnotically good’. There were many times when I found myself unable to put this book down because I had to know what was going to happen to these characters that felt so real.
Simon is our main protagonist but there are other character perspectives throughout including Simon’s wife Alison and a woman called Olivia, all of these seem to focus somehow on Michael and his effect on their lives. However, none of them suspect the terrifying way it’s going to turn out.
While this is an urban fantasy, the fantasy parts unfold very slowly and those expecting a fast paced thriller style novel are in for a bit of a slow start. In fact, to me it felt a little like chick lit for men with all of the focus on relationships and home life in the beginning of the novel. It is the gradual unravelling of deeply embedded mysteries and how the characters are effected and react to these that make the novel. It is how Jason Starr doesn’t feel the need to be overly descriptive in his writing style yet the novel doesn’t feel at all lacking for it. It is the ‘what ifs?’ that drive The Pack and keep us reading.
Obviously, though it isn’t rubbed in your face, The Pack is a werewolf urban fantasy. The clue is in the name after all and these are not the kind of werewolves many of us have grown used to in recent years but the ones that featured in horror previous to the paranormal craze. They’re uncontrollable, unstable and terrifying. They have no remorse and are quite literally animals.
The latter part of The Pack was a fair bit more fast paced, but the ending itself felt too much as though it was missing something. It just felt like it ended and I wanted to see a little more after the resolution. It was quite unsettling. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I can recommend The Pack to folk who like their urban fantasy without all of the romance and just a little more horror and thriller.