The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan, is a bit of a contradiction. On one hand, it rigidly follows its own rules regarding its protagonist: Jacob Marlowe, a 200-year-old werewolf living in modern-day London. That's a good thing, and readers should be more than willing to accept (and be intrigued by) Jake's "supernaturaledness." But then, after some initial stage-setting, the plot spins off wildly and more than a bit convolutedly, making the reader have to suspend disbelief where s/he shouldn't have to. So it's the stuff (Jake is a freakin' werewolf) we couldn't really expect to believe that works, and the stuff we're supposed not to question that doesn't. And that's why I closed this novel thinking, "good attempt, but no."
We get Jake's "rules" right from the start: Each month, "the Curse" causes him to change to his savage, lycanthrope form, feeding on a human victim. The rest of the month, Jake spends in his human form having deviant sex with prostitutes, chain smoking and drinking expensive scotch.
As the novel opens, we learn that Jake is, officially, the last werewolf. The second-to-last has just been hunted and killed, and since humans seem now to have become immune to "the Curse" — and werewolves aren't able to "change" others to their kind anymore — Jake's carrying the torch by himself. The problem is, he's lost his will to live; he can't find meaning in life anymore. And so he plans, much to the chagrin of his long-time friend Harley, to let the hunters take him down, too.
But, suddenly, fate — or what seem like fate, but is, at best, convenient coincidences, and, at worst, terrible contrivances — intervenes. Jake is knocked out of his misanthropic comfort zone and must re-evaluate what he truly believes. If that sounds too movie-trailerish, then you sort of get the idea. In fact, Jake is constantly comparing what's happening to how it would play in a movie — if this were a movie, I could simply invent a deus ex machina to solve such-and-such problem, for example. But the problem with the novel is that just about every plot hinge actually does feel like a deus ex machina, including the denouement, which feels like it's right out of a crappy Michael Bay-directed movie.
I will say this: Duncan writes with a real flair for the dramatic (though often bordering on overly sensational or hyperbolic). And he's often witty and profound. As well, the "action" sequences here are riveting. But they're too few and far between. In the space between are all sorts of reflections on making meaning out of life and whether it's worth going on. Dull.
This is certainly an inventive story — fitting nicely into the up-and-coming genre of "literary monster novels." But, it all feels too convenient; a hard trick for a supernatural werewolf novel. Three stars.