The Pack by Jason Starr

The Pack is a confidently written urban fantasy which offers a neat twist on the werewolf legend.

Simon Burns is fired from his job without warning. Reluctantly, he takes on the role of stay-at-home dad for his three-year-old son but this pushes his already strained marriage to the limit. Things take a seeming turn for the better when he meets a tight-knit trio of dads at the playground. They are different from other men Simon has met, stronger and more confident, and soon Simon is lured into their mix. But after a guys' night out gets frighteningly out of hand, Simon feels himself sliding into a new nightmarish reality. As he experiences disturbing changes in his body and his perceptions, he starts to suspect that when the guys welcomed him to their "pack", they were talking about much more than male bonding…

Jason Starr (who also writes screenplays) is the author of nine international bestselling crime novels, set mainly in the New York City area, and The Pack is his tenth novel.

There is much to like about The Pack, the New York setting is always a safe banker and Starr incorporates it well into his story, allowing it to become a character in its own right. A further strength is the way in which he realistically depicts the lives of working parents and the difficulties they face in trying to balance work commitments and home life. All who have been parents understand that, without wanting to, they are always checking to ensure that the other is pulling their weight, and if they are found to be wanting it leads to simmering resentment and puts a great strain on many marriages. And this is what the author does very well, he shows a marriage in crisis where it is Alison that feels Jeremy is not making enough effort in many areas and although his unforeseen "changes" lead to a temporary ceasefire, the underlying problems still remain. The book's focus is definitely on relationships and Starr's handling of both the male and female characters leads to an impressive feeling of authenticity.

The Pack also cleverly shows how Google and the internet has become the number 1 stop for all relationship and medical issues, where there is a forum for every type of problem/disorder (even for wife's of men who think they are werewolves!).

One problem that I had with The Pack was that I found the characters, although authentic as mentioned above, rather unlikeable. This made it difficult to get behind, or empathise with any of them. Simon and Alison were supposedly going to be entering difficult times, due to Simon losing his job, but all this appeared to involve was the cutting back on takeaway meals and the use of taxis - and I struggled to find sympathy with their plight. I also found that Simon's character, and his behaviour, became a little less believable as the story progressed. After he discovers exactly what it is that is affecting him, I found the way in which he broached the subject with his wife extremely unlikely. Don't get me wrong, The Pack is a good book, it is just not a great book. It is a book that would make for a great holiday read (which I hope does not come across as damning with faint praise). But the main problem for me was the lack of actual suspense or thrills. My heart stayed at a steady beat throughout the reading and this was disappointing as I had hoped for periods of tension and horror.

So in conclusion I would say that The Pack is an ably written urban fantasy with good characters and story that unfortunately lacks the thrills and spills that I felt it really needed. I liked The Pack, just didn't love it, with my lasting impression being that it was more like reading a screenplay than a novel.

7/10 A confidently written urban fantasy which offers a neat twist on the werewolf legend.

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