Shepherd’s Call is the fourth in the “Shepherd & Wolfe Mystery” series, with Along Comes a Wolf, Shepherd's Watch and Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing being the first three. Though four years have passed since the physical appearance of the last book in 2018, only minutes have transpired in the fictional lives of Tony Shepherd and Charlie Wolfe. In Wolfe in Shepherd’s Clothing, the novel’s final word was help, the entire contents of Charlie’s text to Tony. The prologue to Shepherd’s Call provides both the context for Charlie’s sending the text message and the initiating event which sets the plot in motion. Just prior to Tony’s high school graduation ceremony, Charlie is essentially abducted by a pair of bad guys. The men’s identities and their motives for abducting him are unknown to Charlie who had managed to send his cryptic text before entering the men’s car. The plot of Shepherd’s Call essentially revolves around Tony’s ongoing attempts to locate and then rescue Charlie while Charlie continues to use his wits to stay alive while being caught in the middle of a Mob power struggle. Along the way, readers get to learn much more about Charlie’s backstory, and a character, Cousin Rachel, from Shepherd's Watch reemerges.
Like the previous books, Shepherd’s Call begins with a “prologue”, with the rest of the contents this time being divided into six parts followed by an “ epilogue”. Again, the largely short chapters see the point of view shifting between Tony and Charlie, an approach which allows readers to get a fuller picture of the action.
While Shepherd’s Call can work as a standalone, readers will have a richer experience if they have encountered the three earlier books, especially in terms of their understanding character relationships. For example, Detective Gekas appears to be an almost minor character in Shepherd’s Call, but those who have already met her will be aware of her previous interactions with Charlie and will better appreciate the “why” of her seeming indifference to Tony’s claims that Charlie is in trouble and needs her help.
Lest readers fear that Counios & David Gane have brought the “Shepherd & Wolfe Mystery” series to an end, in the last line of the epilogue, Cousin Rachel reveals “[t]hat your sister is alive, Charlie Wolfe.” Let’s just hope that teen readers [and this not-so-teen reader] don’t have to wait another four years before joining Tony and Charlie who will undoubtedly be on a quest to find Sophie, who, 15 years ago, went missing at the age of 13. And the romantics in the reading crowd may learn if Lakshmi is Tony’s new girlfriend or was just a throwaway minor character in Shepherd’s Call.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba.