Book Review: Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf

Posted August 5, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf

The Last Werewolf


Glen Duncan

horror, urban fantasy in eBook edition that was published by Vintage on April 7, 2011 and has 346 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

The Last Werewolf is the first in The Last Werewolf urban fantasy horror series and a poetic, philosophical look at the last days of a tired werewolf, who thinks he’s the last of his kind.

It was nominated for the 2011 Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novel. I would recommend this to the more intellectual reader of paranormal fiction.

My Take

I almost stopped reading this after a few chapters in. I was getting bored with the poetical musings of how Jake became a werewolf, the conflict between wer and wulf, and I was appalled by how sympathetic I was to his plight. I didn’t want to understand, especially his acceptance, his enjoyment of what he did. The way he set it aside as if it were a good book he continued to devour mentally through the years. The love that existed between he and Arabella and how he killed that love. God, the tears I shed.

The whole story is like this. A conflict for me between his need for sustenance and life, his easy acceptance of the humans he eats, his whining about not having love in his life even as he embraces his reasons for avoiding it and my enjoyment of Duncan’s words.

Duncan drew me in. It’s fascinating and sad, horrific and daring. The insight into the whys, the loss of everything of which he had dreamed, and his later enjoyment contrasts with one’s own reflections on the lives destroyed, the history of the victim as he’s ingested. The horror of the werewolf seeking a new victim to eat every month. That timing. One human a month. It seems so many, and it’s twelve a year. Two thousand four hundred over two hundred years. So many, and it also seems so few compared to what he could have eaten. Compared to the men destroyed by war.

The language Duncan uses is quite intellectual, and so very obvious when butted up against the fuckkilleat imperative. It’s a simple way to ensure you understand the difference between the human’s and the animal’s needs. Duncan also keeps us beautifully informed of feelings, background, history, etc. Not an info dump in sight, at least not one I fell over! His descriptions are evocative. The attacks he writes of are lyrically hedonistic.

I like Jake’s reasoning for why “humans peg-out around eighty”, although I don’t think it’s the prose fatigue, so much as the weight of that failing body.

Why has WOCOP been letting Jake run free? If Jake wants to badly to be out of this life, why is he struggling so hard to stay within it? I do have to laugh at how upset Grainer and Ellis are over Jake’s acceptance. The Hunt simply isn’t fun if there’s nothing to chase. And the incentive they set up is disgusting. What kind of people are they? More questions are about the antivirus, and while it’s interesting to learn how it affects the new, what does it do to the old? What was the flashback that suddenly nagged?

I must say I do wonder how Jake managed to escape assassination all these years as they expose his incompetence and naiveté. For all the double blinds and cab-switching and false identities, he seems very slack.

Crack me up. A successful organization doing itself out of a job. Poor babies.

The Story

Ennui catches up to all of us, and some two hundred and one years later, Jacob Marlowe can no longer find a reason to continue. It’s simply a matter of recording his last thoughts before he awaits the executioner. The man who has been planning his death for the last forty years.

Not even the torture and murder of his only friend can rouse him from his lethargy. Only, outside forces have their own plans, and it’s their occurrence that changes the timetable. Enough that he suddenly finds a reason to live, to thrive.

The Characters

Jacob Marlowe is now the last werewolf, first turned in 1842. I do wonder if there is a parallel to be drawn between this Jacob and the one in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? Charles Brooke, who lived six miles away in Archer Grange, had been his best friend in Oxfordshire. Arabella was Jacob’s beloved wife, so perfectly suited for each other, and they were living happily at Herne House. Aunt Eliza is the relative who took Arabella in when pneumonia laid her low.

The seventy-year-old Harley is one of the Hunters, but has been helping Jake on the side for the past fifty years. Ever since Jake saved his life in 1965.

Talullah Demetriou is the only child of an Italian, Colleen Gilaley, and a Greek, Nikolai Demetriou, with a chain of delis and diners, and she is newly divorced from the cheating Richard.

The Hunt
WOCOP is the World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena. Eric Grainer is the top o’ the heap, the best of the trackers and killers of werewolves, and anxious to take Jacob down in revenge for his father. Ellis is his Californian protégé. Broussard is with the French branch; Farrell with the English. Russell, the so-very-silent Cat, Wazz, and Chris are part of Ellis’ team. Carter is the motorcyclist. Morgan is the Hunter for whom rape is the default.

WOCOP is to be followed by WOCOP, for … the Creation of Occult Phenomena. Dr. Poulsom sounds like one of those unethical Nazi doctors. Merrit and Dyson are some of her guards.

Jacqueline Delon is an heiress to the Delon Media fortune and is fascinated by the occult. Paul Cloquet is a Frenchman who tried to take out Jake. He was also one of Jacqueline’s lovers; it seems he adores the contempt.

The Fifty Families are the most powerful vampire families — of whom the Mangiardi are one — who made a deal with the Vatican some three hundred years ago. Seems the Church is fine with vampires as long as they tithe and practice “birth control”. Boochies are a slang term for vampires. Only hatred exists between the vampire and the werewolf.

Laura Mangiardi and another vampire try to take Jake in Cornwall. Mia and Phil attack in London.

Madeline is a prostitute who helps Jake relieve those monthly urges. Housani Mubarak is an Egyptian dealer in stolen antiquities. Alexander Quinn supposedly wrote down the tale of the origins of werewolves … Quinn’s book … back in the 1860s. Lord William Greaves employed Quinn on his archeological expeditions as an interpreter/right-hand man. Todd and his team “specialise in elite transvestism” at Halycon Days.

Herr Wolfgang, the Berliner, was the second-to-last; Alfonse Mackar was killed in the Mojave Desert nine months ago. Founders is an exclusive club of which Harley is a member. The Helios Project is an attempt by vampires to make themselves immune to daylight. The Zetter is a luxury hotel in London; Christian is the manager and helpful. Drew Hilyard is a composer.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a dark blue background with three gold icons representing different phases of the moon tucked between the words of the title and the author’s name.

The title is a note about today and prophetic for the future, The Last Werewolf.