"The Pack" by Jason Starr is another of the recent efforts to revive the werewolf mythos and it succeeds admirably on several levels. Starr injects some imaginative ideas on werewolves and their human interactions while at the same time being unable to avoid some of the more predictable and traditional elements such as the futility and inability of believers to convince anyone else of the condition and the inevitability of human baser needs and desires overpowering the sense of right and wrong.
Starr has written a multi-layered novel that deals, at times with surprising humor, with many of man's foibles including failing marriages, obliviousness at mundane jobs leading to unexpected termination, and the making of plans for life that never quite seem to work out. Starr's readers are given the opportunity to question the real and the perceived aspects of character strength, personal commitment to right and wrong, and what constitutes the bonds and bounds of friendship and love.
Simon Burns is suffering through burnout in his job and marriage but does not recognize it. After being summarily fired by his boss, the rage-filled Simon becomes a reluctant stay-at-home dad caring for his 3 year old son, Jeremy, while his neglected wife, Alison, seems to drift further away. Only when he meets three other dads in similar situations and begins bonding with them does he begin experiencing a sense of belonging and meaning in his suddenly rudderless life. He feels stronger as a member of this new "pack" until he awakens from a beer-fueled blackout to find himself lost and naked far from home with no memories of how he got there. When Simon subsequently discovers his former boss was mauled to death by a wolf not far from where he awakened, and starts to experience enhanced sensory acuity and sexual prowess, he begins to suspect an evil only heretofore imagined.
"The Pack" works on several levels including just as a nail-biting paranormal thriller. But I was equally intrigued by the subtext of paranoia that can so easily develop when a wife imagines her husband is having an affair and everything she examines incorrectly points to false conclusions. Equally the paranoia that grows into mental certainty that someone has done something that is anathema to them and that they maybe didn't really do in the first place. Both these subtexts are significant undercurrents in this novel and both can exhaust the reader as evidence can be read to prove whatever the observer chooses to believe.
There are a few sections of the book that come across as unnecessarily contrived and parts where we scream at the cluelessness of the protagonist. The ending is somewhat abrupt and stretches credulity but all appears part of a bigger plan as Starr is reported to be working on a sequel. I recommend this effort to fans of the paranormal as well as to anyone enjoying a thriller that reimagines the possibility of werewolves in New York City.