A string of protests by animal-rights activists appear to have culminated in a double murder at a wolf lab, which releases into the wild a rare animal: a blue wolf. To the Ojibwa a blue wolf means luck; but if captured or killed, Armageddon. Grady Service is in a race against time as an elusive poachers' ring chooses its final target: the blue wolf.
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Compelling ideas and taut suspense distinguish the second in Heywood's series featuring DNR Conservation Officer Grady Service (after 2001's Ice Hunter). Set in the Mosquito Wilderness Tract of Michigan, it's a tense and harrowing narrative most of the way, spoiled only occasionally by the author's tendency to lecture ( la John D. MacDonald) and a predilection for eyebrow-raising names (Wink Rector, DaWayne Kota, Yank Kranker). When protests and bombs planted by animal rights activists apparently result in a double murder at a wolf lab, a rare blue wolf, the symbol for luck, escapes into the wild. But the wolf represents more to the Ojibwa tribe: the animal is an omen for Armageddon if it's captured or killed. Service suspects the murders are more than they seem, and it's up to him to solve them and defuse the potentially explosive situation. Meanwhile, a poaching ring sets its sights on the blue wolf, and Service is up to his badge in trouble. Heywood is best on topical details, if at a price an overlay of ecological and sociological detail threatens to overwhelm the mystery. No matter. When the action takes over, Heywood is incomparable: "In the waning light he was about to resign himself to another cold night, but movement to his right caught his attention. He froze, moving only his eyes, and saw a cedar limb shudder slightly, spilling snow. Below it protruded the barrel of the fifty-caliber rifle pointed toward him. The bore looked big enough to shoot a round the size of a walnut." One hopes Heywood has a long writing career ahead of him.