Last summer, Justin Cronin’s The Passage had me warily looking up at trees lest one of his soul-sucking “virals” be lurking in the limbs all ready to rend me limb-to-limb. This summer, thanks to Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf, no more looking up at full moons while walking the dog.
Granted, my chances of being attacked by a werewolf are about nil, considering that at the beginning of Duncan’s wild tale, Jake Marlowe gets news that he’s the last of his kind. Poor Jake. He’s a world-weary 200-plus-years, but it doesn’t look like he’ll live to be 400 (normal werewolf lifespan). In fact, he’s probably not going to make it past the next full moon because the highly organized anti-occult hunters close on his trail are just waiting until his next transformation. It wouldn’t be sporting to kill the man while he’s not a monster.
Jake only goes to ground in Wales, where he was turned in 1842, to finish up his memoirs, full of lust, gore and philosophical musings. But then the chase is on because someone wants Jake alive — a beautiful woman fronting for the vampires who think werewolves may hold the secret to letting them walk in the sunshine.
Yes, there are vampires but not True Blood ones. No sex for these foul-smelling, supercilious creatures, unlike the horny lycanthropes permanently on the prowl. Jake prefers expensive escorts so he can remain emotionally detached, but that’s before he spots an American woman on a train. Life might be worth living after all.
The Last Werewolf is often darkly funny (“Reader, I ate him”), full of knowing literary and pop culture references. The thriller is also beautifully written as Jake describes the life lupine. “The thought, ‘wilderness,’ stirred the ghost animal, ran cold fingers through the pelt that wasn’t there; mountains like black glass and slivers of snow and the blood-hot howl on ice-flavoured air. . .”
However, The Last Werewolf is not for the faint of heart, the weak of stomach, or anyone put off by explicit sex and graphic violence. Yes, it’s been optioned for a movie. And yes, wouldn’t you know it, Duncan leaves us hungry for a sequel. Meanwhile, no moonlight walks for me. Jake Marlowe may be a soulful anti-hero, but he really is a wolf in wolf’s clothing, nature red in tooth and claw.
Open Book: I read the digital galley of Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf (Knopf) through NetGalley. To quote Duncan, a howl of appreciation to all involved.