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A Shepherd of Wolves
R.J. King, author

Detective Raymond Wright has spent his entire life in St. Anna, South Carolina, growing from a young boy dealing with family and societal issues to a man committed to protecting the community. Despite the harsh realities he has seen in the past, nothing has prepared him for the horrendous crimes being committed by Edmund Glass. Both the serial killer who is leaving parts of his victim around the town and the detective have roots in St. Anna, and their intertwined history begins to reveal itself as the two travel down paths that are destined to collide.

King’s intense, character-driven debut examines the lives of a serial killer and a detective to reveal the conditions that made them into adversaries. Edmund Glass lives in St. Anna, South Carolina, with an insatiable hunger that leads him to bite, strangle, and devour various body parts of his victims before discarding the corpses. Detective Sergeant Raymond Wright protects St. Anna–a relatively easy job until human body parts start showing up around town. Wright embarks on a mission to hunt down this devious killer before more innocents end up dismembered.

King holds nothing back as he plummets into these men’s lives, giving readers the pieces to construct crisp images of their upbringings. Wright grew up in the segregated South, and King’s examples of torment and humiliation by bigoted white characters (who repeatedly use the “n” word and take pleasure in assaulting Black characters) paints a visceral depiction of racism. The plot also tackles child abuse in both the past of both men, while dropping ominous hints that Glass’s peculiarities and troubled mind will lead him down an evil path. Influential supporting characters—such as Wright’s best friend, Carl, and Glass’s love interest, Grant—bring intrigue and complexity into the lives of the leads, adding depth and feeling to the plot.

The present timeline, focused on Wright’s investigation in 2010, finds these lives intersecting. Unlike in most novels of cops and killers, some readers may feel the background chapters offer more drama and tension than the case the detective is working. Although the book’s present boasts engrossing scenes that will capture the attention of procedural fans, some border on repetitive. Still, this overall is a powerful exploration of two men and their inner demons, with one serving the law and the other viciously breaking it. Readers looking for a nosedive into what makes men monsters versus heroes will enjoy this unsettling thriller.

Takeaway: This dynamic crime thriller plunges into the environmental and psychological forces that create villains and heroes.

Great for fans of: Nadine Matheson The Jigsaw Man, Thomas Mullen’s Darktown.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A