After reading Benjamin Percy’s Red Moon last year I am now rather more inclined towards reading a werewolf story than before. With the final part of Glen Duncan’s Last Werewolf trilogy just about to be published, it seemed like a good time to finally catch-up by reading the first part, The Last Werewolf.
Jake Marlowe is the last werewolf. All others have been hunted and dispatched by agents working for WOCOP (the World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena – although for control read extermination in the case of werewolves). Jake has survived the best part of two centuries, latterly helped by his devoted friend and double agent Harley, but now WOCOP are on his trail and the next full moon will be his last.
Jake’s resigned to his fate, world weary, jaded, and so worn down by sensation or the lack thereof that death comes as a release. Jake’s the only one that wants him to bow out quietly however. Just about everyone else seems to have some vested interest in how he spends his remaining days. Vampires, rouge assassins, rich bored women, and renegade WOCOP agents are all tracking him. Even his nemesis Grainer wants him to make a proper hunt of it. All Jake really wants is to finish his journal by telling the one untold story, the one tale too terrible to be told – his earliest days as a wolf. He can’t think of anything that would tempt him to fight for his life; it’ll be the unthinkable, then, that jolts Jake out of his apathetic state.
It’s a treat for the reader as we get both the action of Jake’s present and the awful truth of his past. In the now he’s a chain-smoking, coffee-addicted, whiskey-swilling, sex-obsessed killer at peace with the blood and gore on his hands (and the rest of his body too). In the then, he was perhaps something worse; his secret is dark and terrible not just because of what he does but more because of what his actions mean for the glue that holds people together: love. All of the time I could not help but root for him. Even as he’s planning his next kill I was still hoping he’d survive whatever trials came his way. Even when I was thinking he’d rip my throat out soon as look at me if I were in this story. I certainly liked Jake much more than Grainer or his sinister subordinate Ellis. Jake has an honesty and directness, and is all together more human than either of those two monsters.
The violence is bloody; Jake describes his transformations and kills in bone-crunching detail. Luckily my stomach is strong for the gruesome. The Hunger he feels is described as a living thing, somehow separate from him but also an integral part of his wolf-self. He also carries the lives of each of his kills inside him, as echoes or memories; he takes in and retains the essence of those he consumes. In my thesis research I come across lots of ideas around consumption and imbibing characteristics so I found this very satisfying to think about. Actually, I found the whole thing very satisfying. I loved the style and story. I knew a little about book two before I began and I wondered how one story progressed to the next, but it’s done brilliantly. There are some twisty-turns along the way to keep you guessing and the ending is knock-out. I think it’s fair to say I enjoyed The Last Werewolf, and I’ll be reading the second book ASAP.
The Last Werewolfand Talullah Rising are both available in paperback (with a new set of matching jackets) and eBook. The final part By Blood We Live is published Thursday 6 February. My thanks to Canongate Books for allowing me access to the eBook of The Last Werewolf via NetGalley.