Review: A Howl of Wolves by Judith Flanders

A Howl of Wolves

Judith Flanders

Sam Claire Series

May 15, 2018

A Howl of Wolves by New York Times bestselling author Judith Flanders once again brilliantly fuses mystery with humor in this fourth installment of her critically acclaimed ­Sam Clair series.

This was my first foray into the Sam Clair mysteries, and I was delighted. A Howl of Wolves is book number four in the series, and though I was a newbie, it wasn’t hard to follow. Author Judith Flanders writes with ease and brings new readers in seamlessly without including too much backstory to bog the story down.

Sam Clair is an editor turned amateur sleuth on the side. She attends a play because her neighbors are in the cast. All does not go according to plan when a body turns up on stage and a murderer must be found. As the story progresses, more death follows. The mystery deepens as Sam’s boyfriend, Jake, races to find out whodunit.

We were, by my count, up to the tenth body when things went astray. According to the story, the tenth body wasn’t in reality the tenth at all, but belonged to a character who had been killed before the interval, whose body was now being displayed by his anguished father, who drew back a curtain to reveal it hanging from a rafter, all green and mildewed and nasty, one hand clawing outward in a ferocious death-spasm, fingers splayed and frozen in the air.

Certainly, to modern eyes it was ludicrous, and you would expect the odd nervy giggle in the audience. But it was in fact the cast that started it. They worked hard to cover things up, but the moment the curtain was pulled back, everyone onstage stuttered and stumbled, all of them refusing to look at one another, shoulders silently shaking.

A Howl of Wolves features a relatable and believable protagonist in Sam as well as a wonderful supporting cast of characters. Sam has flaws like all of us, but she is down to earth, good-hearted, and genuinely wants to help. I really enjoyed reading about her job as an editor and her relationship with her coworkers. Flanders writes about the publishing industry like a pro, giving us just enough ins and outs of the everyday workings of the machine that is publishing.

Sam gets help by way of her mother, Helena, and a friend, Kit, to name a few. I also enjoyed a few other minor characters, such as Sam’s upstairs neighbor, Mr. Rudiger; the pretty young actress, Frankie; and Sam’s work assistant, Miranda. It really is a well-rounded and wonderfully fleshed-out cast. Kit’s role wasn’t very big, but when he showed up, he definitely left an impression with his wily ways and master manipulations.

“She’s never very nice, but she’s furious today.”

“Watch the master,” I whispered back.

And we did. I wish I’d timed it, because those particle physicists at CERN, the ones who think they’ve detected neutrinos traveling faster than light, would have been green with envy as Kit jockeyed Sour Face from Sour, to Mildly Tangy, to Heap of Sugar at a speed that would have made their neutrinos feel so inadequate they decided to look for another line of work. After bare minutes, voice raised, Sweet Face exclaimed, “Mr. Lovell, I tell you, that’s not something I’m permitted to give you access to.”

Alice lifted an eyebrow at me. See? It said, but I responded by holding up a finger: Wait. My faith was justified, as Kit’s new best friend continued, “Yes, of course it’s something I can look up. The password—”

Flanders compels the reader to become invested in the characters and forces them to follow along for the ride. The mystery is entertaining, but it’s the characters that keep us reading. And it all wraps up with a subtle nod to a Greek tragedy ending. I will definitely be grabbing the earlier books in this series to see how Sam and her crew have evolved. Check out A Howl of Wolves if you haven’t yet and join in Sam’s journey.

Read an excerpt from A Howl of Wolves!

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