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The House of Wolfe: A Border Noir


The House of Wolfe: A Border Noir

In the interest of full disclosure, I am currently loving any literary work that meets the classification of “border noir” or “desert noir.” THE HOUSE OF WOLFE does that, but I would have eaten it up regardless. Author James Carlos Blake seems set on establishing a literary Wolfe family dynasty with his newly released work, the second (after 2013’s THE RULES OF WOLFE) or third (if you count the historical novel COUNTRY OF THE BAD WOLFES) in a series of novels concerning a large family with blood ties across the U.S.-Mexican border.

While hiding in plain sight, the Wolfe family and their Mexican counterparts south of the border have established a number of extremely successful enterprises, legal and otherwise, through what one might call business diversification, establishing wealth and, perhaps more importantly, power along the way. What occurs in the Wolfe series has been described as semi-autobiographical, and certainly what has occurred in the series to date has the ring of reality and truth to it. It’s not just the story that Blake tells; it’s the unflinching beauty with which he tells it that makes this series an addiction after only two (or three) books.

"In the interest of full disclosure, I am currently loving any literary work that meets the classification of 'border noir' or 'desert noir.' THE HOUSE OF WOLFE does that, but I would have eaten it up regardless."

Blake can make you flinch with the violence of his prose in one paragraph and arouse you with an erotic description in another. Anyone who has ever walked on the wild side, however briefly, will recognize each and all of the characters in THE HOUSE OF WOLFE, and be attracted by some and repelled by others. This is masterful writing from beginning to end, so good that it will set your teeth on edge in the best of ways.

The plot is fairly straightforward, even as Wolfe’s masterful and plain-edged use of language, drama and suspense turns the book into a story that you hope will never end. Jessica “Jessie” Juliet Wolfe of the American side of the Wolfe family equation is in Mexico City, participating as a bridesmaid in the wedding of one of her best friends from college. The festivities, however, are irrevocably marred by a group of bandidos who kidnap the entire wedding party as they leave the reception. The abduction is carried out professionally enough under the leadership of El Galán, a lower tier gangster who wants to make the jump into the major leagues. El Galán’s plan is to hold the wedding party for a ransom of five million USD, figuring that the audaciousness of his act and the amount of money demanded will gain him a partnership with one of the major crime cartels. Jessica, the only member of the wedding party not related to the bride or groom by blood, is, as it turns out, a deadly outlier.

When the Texas Wolfes are notified by their Mexican cousins of Jessica’s abduction, they are not content to sit back and let their relatives go it alone with the dangerous task of recovering her. Within hours, family members from both sides of the border are sitting in Mexico City, plotting how they are going to find Jessica and effect a rescue, not to mention a fitting revenge. The vignette that opens the book demonstrates unequivocally that the Wolfes are not a family to be trifled with. El Galán, for his part, is ruthless and motivated, and, as we see soon enough, Jessica incurs the wrath of his henchmen all too quickly. It’s not so much a question of whether or not the Wolfes will get to El Galán and his crew, as to whether or not they will get to them in time --- “in time,” as in before anyone is hurt, killed, or worse. That is the question that will keep your eyes and mind galloping across the pages.

Blake has been critically acclaimed for several years; the reason for that will be clear once you read THE HOUSE OF WOLFE. He enjoys dropping little mysteries into the narrative and revealing the answer a bit later. For example, the abduction of the wedding party is a very well-kept secret. How is it, then, that the Wolfes know about it within a few hours of its occurrence? Blake provides a very surprising, and surprisingly erotic, answer early on, which is worth the price of admission all by itself. There is also a bit of a pause in the present-day narrative about halfway through, as some tidbits of backstory are told, some of which will no doubt be enlarged upon for future volumes. There are many more reasons to come to THE HOUSE OF WOLFE, a dark and violent novel about the three things that matter most: love, family and loyalty.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on March 20, 2015

The House of Wolfe: A Border Noir
by James Carlos Blake

  • Publication Date: March 8, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction, Noir, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802124747
  • ISBN-13: 9780802124746