The Saint of Wolves and Butchers

Twelve teenagers had disappeared from western Kansas over a period of seven years. All of them had been girls between the ages of ten and eighteen, but investigators had not found a single connection among them. Two of them had attended the same school, but none of the twelve had known each other, so far as anyone was aware. Three of them had been black, two Jewish, six Hispanic, and one had been visiting from an American Indian college in eastern Kansas. No bodies had been found, and the police departments of three counties had concluded that the girls were runaways. Flyers were handed out, appeals for information were made on the local television and radio stations, photographs were stapled to telephone poles, but no new leads were uncovered. Had anyone ventured down the stairs to the subbasement of the Purity First Church, down beneath the shuffleboard court, the communal hall, and the cozy kitchen, they might have uncovered some sign of those twelve missing girls. They might have found evidence of other men, women, and children who had been there, had spent their last moments on Earth staring at six red scars before moving on.

The Saint of Wolves and Butchers by Alex Grecian

The Saint of Wolves and Butchers by Alex Grecian

The Saint of Wolves and Butchers is a thriller about a State Trooper named Scottie Foster and a Nazi hunter named Travis Roan who team up to track down a former Nazi doctor in western Kansas. Travis has arrived in Kansas following a report of an elderly woman who recognized Rudolph Bormann as the sinister man from her youth. Little do they know, Bormann never stopped his wicked ways, making this investigation far more dangerous than they had expected.

The character development of Scottie, the main character, was particularly well done. She recently moved back to Kansas with her young daughter after a difficult separation with her husband. The personal conflicts in Scottie’s life were engaging and believable. However, I wanted much more for Travis Roan. He arrives in the novel a quirky and mysterious figure, and that never really changes much. We get very little about himself, his family, and his personal history, and next to no personal motivation for his work. I would have related to him much better had we understood a little more about why he does what he does.

As a current resident of Kansas, I appreciated the feel of the space in The Saint of Wolves and Butchers. I think this novel really captures the feel of small towns in Kansas, and the vast space that lies between them. The villain of the novel, Rudolph Bormann, has built a church upon the foundations of other-ness (heavily focusing on race), and unfortunately, that too felt a good deal like the real-life Westboro Baptist Church, that is stationed in Topeka, Kansas. It is hard to say whether the space feels distinctly Kansan – I think it would take a non-Kansan to say for sure – but it sure felt familiar to me.

However, I really wish more had been made of Nazi history. I primarily picked up this novel because of an interest in World War II, and I thought it would have more historical scenes, or at least more information about the Nazis that did manage to escape into America. There was very little about this process – we see Bormann arriving in Kansas and we get a couple scenes while he gets settled and builds his family, but overall there was very little historical information in the novel. I think that historical world-building would have added an interesting dimension to the plot.

The pacing in this novel, however, was spot-on. It didn’t feel rushed like some thrillers do, but it consistently kept my attention, and while there were some moments that slowed down for character development and interaction, it never slowed down enough to distract from the plot. This aspect, I think, is what will really sell the book for fans of thrillers – it is a quick read with a compelling plot that drives the reader through to the end.

In all, I will give The Saint of Wolves and Butchers a 7 out of 10. I certainly enjoyed the plot and the characters, but all in all I wanted a little more from the world-building and the history. I’m sure fans of thrillers and mysteries will enjoy it well enough, but don’t expect much more than your standard mystery novel.

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