Set in late 1866 amid Red Cloud’s War in the Dakota Territory, McCarthy’s third novel (after Peeler) is a historically rich blend of mystery, morality, and brutal frontier warfare between the U.S. Army and the Sioux. Cavalry Lt. Martin Molloy and his loyal orderly Sergeant Kohn are ordered to Fort Phil Kearney to investigate the triple murder of the secretary of the treasury’s brother-in-law, his wife, and his assistant at a brothel. The pair receive troubling instruction to hang anybody, white or Native American, to get political heat off the general. Molloy and Kohn are Civil War veterans, Molloy a moralist and hopeless drunk, Kohn a duty-bound realist. Together they face two deadly foes—the Sioux outside the fort and men inside who do not want the murders solved. As a parallel and through Michael’s journal, the stories of Pvts. Michael and Thomas O’Driscoll, Irish immigrant soldiers at the fort, are told, revealing a provident connection with Molloy. When the murderers are identified, Molloy won’t arrest them because he believes the murders are justified, so Kohn, a man without sentiment, decides to take matters into his own hands. Though not for the squeamish, this is a riveting and propulsive mystery. (Nov.)
"Kevin McCarthy shows himself to be an inspired explorer of history’s lost and forgotten causes. Wolves of Eden is a war story, mystery and elegy—thrilling, unflinching and finely observed."
"When it comes to saturation-level historical authenticity—the sense of being there, alive and at large in the vanished past—I think Kevin McCarthy is in the company of masters like Patrick O’Brian and Hilary Mantel. Wolves of Eden is also a shiningly humane novel, all the more credible for being told by an Irish author, about the immigrant soldiers who found themselves on the front lines during the harrowing seizure of the American West."
"Kevin McCarthy is a fresh voice, and a keen one. This Irish thriller writer has ventured boldly into a new continent and a new history. His place is the American West in the 1860s, when the long, sad carnage was winding its grim way toward Wounded Knee. With this story of profound tragedy, his new readers will be many."
"A fine amalgam of historical fiction, western, and thriller."
"A fine amalgam of historical fiction, western, and thriller."- Booklist
"A riveting and propulsive mystery."- Publishers Weekly
"A strong entry in the modern western genre, encompassing both historical accuracy and social commentary, wrapped in a well-told story."- Library Journal
"Absorbing…. It's the well-drawn characters and riveting scenes that make this novel memorable."- Kirkus Reviews
McCarthy (Peeler) has written a classic Western from an Irish perspective. Brothers Michael and Thomas Kelly O'Driscoll flee to America after accidentally killing another man. Penniless, they enlist in the army upon landing, promised food and lodging for a little bit of fighting. But even after suffering physical and mental injuries in the Civil War, they sign up to head west to Montana. The narrative flips between Michael's narrative and the third-person story of an Irish army officer and his Jewish aide-de-camp, with these two threads growing closer as the book proceeds. The characters are no angels, and McCarthy doesn't sanitize or modernize attitudes or opinions of the indigenous people or freed slaves. Despite this and the frequent violence, the story is never gratuitously offensive. With pitch-perfect writing, McCarthy gives us a new slant on Western history, illuminating the extensive role of Irish immigrants in the U.S. Army in the 1860s. The emotional heart of the book is the close, unsentimental relationship of the O'Driscoll brothers. VERDICT This is a strong entry in the modern Western genre, encompassing both historical accuracy and social commentary, wrapped in a well-told story. [See Prepub Alert, 5/21/18.]—Melanie Kindrachuk, Stratford P.L., Ont.
This absorbing, dark historical novel tells of two Irish brothers and two Army veterans caught up in a civilian murder amid conflicts with Native Americans in the late 1860s.
In one of the book's two narrative strands, Irish immigrants Tom and Michael O'Driscoll enlist in the Union Army in 1861 and end up helping to build a fort in Montana after the Civil War. In the other, Kohn and Molloy are veterans investigating the murder at the new fort of a trader and his wife who are related to the secretary of the treasury. The two storylines are out of sync chronologically, and part of the book's fun is watching them slowly converge. Michael narrates the brothers' tale in flashbacks while in the fort's jail for reasons that are long withheld. In the third-person ongoing present of the Kohn strand, he pursues the murder investigation mostly alone because Molloy drinks constantly to obliterate war memories ("I kill children….I have killed"). McCarthy (Irregulars, 2013, etc.) aims to highlight the role of Irish immigrants in the violent period (as his bibliography notes). The amount of boozing in general may serve historical accuracy but also may sustain the hoary slur of Erin go blotto, while the purely white man's view of Native Americans as savages is hardly balanced by nods to the Indians' athletic skills. The Kohn narrative reveals him as an intriguing character, an exemplary soldier at ease with violence who "joined the army to escape" his Jewish background and a life as a tailor. Among other things, he offers a very Joycean take on the Irish: "A cursed, wandering race, like my own."
McCarthy has a fine sense of voice and period detail, but it's the well-drawn characters and riveting scenes that make this novel memorable.