Ed McBain, famous author of police procedurals, once described the process for writing his 87th Precinct novels: “I usually start with a corpse. I then ask myself how the corpse got to be that way.” This prescriptive analysis perfectly describes the power of Dennis Tafoya’s approach in his second Philadelphia mystery. Here is how it all starts: “Michael Donovan and George Parkman Jr. were shot in front of the dope house on Roxborough Avenue on a Thursday night in June, [and] Mia and Tisa were standing on the stoop at Pelchin Street [. . . while taking] a little break before the next johns[.]“
Building upon that attention-grabbing opening, Tafoya shows readers what really happened to Donovan and Parkman by interweaving four distinct narrative voices (two fathers of the victims, one detective, and one junkie) in a complex tale that is much more than a routine whodunit crime story. The Wolves at Fairmount Park is a dark portrait of a harrowing world inhabited by characters threatened by addictions, passions, and secrets. Readers discover along the way that the police and the families of the shooting victims will have a difficult time maintaining a delicate balance between rage and grief in their “rough and tumble” quest for justice. Much like Tafoya’s superb first novel, Dope Thief, the carefully crafted plotting, the deftly nuanced characterizations, and the compelling themes combine to make The Wolves of Fairmont Park a highly recommended novel.