Kirkus review -- She-wolf

A young Ukrainian woman is determined to get to the bottom of her beloved grandparents’ suspicious deaths in Moss’ thriller.

Orphaned Deborah Sokolov and her older brother, Ethan, live with her Ukrainian grandparents in a two-story house in an area of Brooklyn known as Little Odessa. At 17, she considers herself “just OK at things”; Ethan is a better student, and Deborah’s always an also-ran on her high school track team. But when she persuades her grandfather to teach her to shoot competitively, the experience is transformative. “It was like the feeling I had in sixth grade when I started running cross-country,” she notes.

Her world is shattered, however, when her grandparents are killed. She doesn’t buy the official story that an ill, 81-year-old Ukrainian man committed the crime. Her grandfather, a mobster’s bookkeeper, had confessed to her that he’d once done things for which he was ashamed. He also had a rule that he lived by: “I never did harm to anyone—unless they would do harm to me or my family.” Now, someone has harmed her family. “There is…a she-wolf inside you,” her grandfather once told her. “I saw her when you were shooting. You must promise me…do not let it out.”

Readers, however, will be anxious for Deborah’s she-wolf to be unleashed, and it is. Moss effectively alerts readers to this with a present-day prologue that sees Deborah captured and in the company of people who very much want her dead before flashing back to how she became her grandparents’ avenger. The author crafts her as a credible hero and efficiently keeps the reader off balance with shifting alliances and betrayals among the various characters, paying it all off with a tense, action-packed climax. Some bursts of violence, though, are at once jolting and anticlimactic, as when one pivotal character meets a sudden and unceremonious end.

An auspicious revenge tale with an unconventional heroine.