Can a novel about werewolves be both gorily pulpy and classy? Glen Duncan comes bloody close in The Last Werewolf, a surprisingly well-written yarn about a Kant-quoting lycanthrope on the run from monster hunters bent on rendering his species extinct.
Jake Marlowe, whose name recalls the hero of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and the author of Doctor Faustus, was infected nearly 200 years ago and has grown weary of the chase and his monthly feedings. Unlike Jeff Lindsay's Dexter Morgan, the serial killer who targets only fellow killers, Jake is generally less discriminating in his selection of victims. But even he gives in to charitable impulses, of a sort: ''Two nights ago I'd eaten a forty-three-year-old hedge fund specialist. I've been in a phase of taking the ones no one wants.'' Jake is not only quite the raconteur, he's also a major horndog the book's many sex scenes are just as graphic as the kills. ''The werewolf gets dyslexia and a permanent erection,'' Duncan notes, while the vampires whose presence makes Jake physically ill are immortal and sexless. Take that, True Blood fans!
Duncan creates a world that is completely imagined, if occasionally implausible. (Why are the werewolf stalkers so strangely chivalrous, refusing to take Jake down when he's in his human state?) He's blocked out vivid action sequences that will smooth the way for the no-doubt soon-to-be-hired screenwriter. But mostly, he's crafted a clever narrative with a memorable antihero at its feral, furry heart. B+