Reviewed by C.J. Darlington
House of Wolves by Matt Bronleewe
"Illuminated shot Bronleewe out of the starting gate, but House of Wolves makes him the one to watch. "
We first met rare book scout August Adams in Matt Bronleewe’s novel Illuminated. A purloined Gutenberg Bible sent Adams and his family on the adventure of a lifetime. Now he’s back in House of Wolves, and the rare book du jour is The Gospels of Henry the Lion. Like in Illuminated, this book is real, too. Published in 1188, the title actually sold for 12 million in 1983. No one knows for sure who bought it at the Sotheby auction (a camouflaged military plane was sent from Berlin to collect it), but Matt Bronleewe has penned a novel that gives us his best guess.
From the New York Public Library to Antarctica, House of Wolves spans the globe in typical thriller fashion, with more twists and turns than San Francisco’s Lombard Street. We never know who or what will show up next, and that’s what makes this novel a true page-turner. Fans of Illuminated will be pleased to see August’s ex-wife April and son Charley are back. But even more family mayhem ensues as August Adam’s estranged father, from whom August gets his love of books, plays a key role too.
How does Bronleewe come up with these elaborate stories? He starts with a fascinating historical element and weaves the facts seamlessly with his imagination. Says Bronleewe about The Holy Vehm, a secret society that plays a prominent role: “They certainly existed within the ranks of the Nazis symbolically...” and about The Gospels of Henry the Lion being lost for fifty years prior to its 1983 sale Bronleewe says, “Some research suggests that the Nazis stole The Gospels of Henry the Lion from a bank vault during WWII. I used that ‘best guess’ while plotting...”
House of Wolves borrows from many adventure movies, but most notably the National Treasure franchise. It’s easy to imagine Nicolas Cage playing August Adams like he did Ben Gates. Both leads possess sharp minds able to decipher clues, maps and codes with lightning speed. They aren’t super heroes — their skills come from their knowledge, not their brawn, and that’s what makes them endearing.
But it’s the rare book angle that sets Bronleewe’s stories of international intrigue apart. Even if you’re not a bibliophile you can’t help but be intrigued about books so rare men (and women) would kill for them. Apparently August Adams has some amazing sources because it remains to be seen just where he finds all these valuable titles in the cut-throat world of antiquarian books. At times, a pause in the action for some character development would’ve been nice, but that’s a lot to ask of a thriller. Bronleewe is on par with Ted Dekker’s relentless pacing in this department, and it’s certainly not hurting either of them.
There’s a little less graphic gore in House
of Wolves than in Illuminated,
but the body count still piles up. The spiritual message is almost non-existent,
but there’s no offensive language or sexual undertones. Knowing that
going in you can sit back and enjoy this terrific conspiracy novel. Even
the most astute reader won’t be able to guess the surprises.
Illuminated shot Bronleewe out of the starting gate, but House of Wolves makes him the one to watch.
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C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.