As the title suggests, Jakob Marlowe is the last surviving werewolf in the world. Headed by Grainer, a steely unemotional character with a persona vendetta gainst Jake, WOCOP ( World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena) has been exterminating werewolves with brutal efficiency, and Jake is their final catch. The chances of escape seem slim.
He is faced with a choice: Keep fighting for survival against the odds, or meet his executioner in defeat at the next full moon. The question is, does he want to keep living all alone in the world? What would be the point?
So begins the book which instantly sucked me in - From the first description of newly fallen snow I knew I was on to a good thing.
First of all, it is pure, rampant fantasy - there are werewolves, vampires, secret organisations, basement vaults, ancient documents, sub-plots and sub-sub-plots. It is outrageously, blatantly, unapologetically fantastical, and it is done in such a matter-of-fact and natural way that I bought it hook, line and sinker.
But that's not all - in addition to the rollocking fantasy, this book is a joyous celebration of English articulacy. Duncan is a master with words and sentences, every page providing a new angle or a totally original observation. He is delightfully playful with words, which are often used as much for their sound as their meaning. It is acutely observant and introspective, detailed, sensitive and very often brilliant.
And it is this skill which allows Duncan to add another, very dark, level to his story. The understanding of what it is to be as werewolf is complete: Man as an animal, and what happens when the biological, natural process of predation conflicts with being human. Hunger is described as a living, thinking thing, an adversary to be fought but never defeated. There is a refreshingly detached view on mortality and humanity I have never seen before.
This sharply intelligent book is at times funny, heartbreaking, deliciously perverted, grotesque and always, always brilliant.