In this cerebral, if less than exciting, procedural from British author McGuinness (The Last Hundred Days), police officers Ander Widderson and his crude, quipping partner, Gary, look into the murder of a young woman whose body was discovered under a bridge in South East England (and about whom the reader learns nothing of consequence). The prime suspect, retired teacher Michael Wolphram, taught at Chapleton College when Ander attended the exclusive boarding school back in the 1980s. Ander’s reminiscences about his time as Wolphram’s student and the disappearance of his best friend, Danny, from the school provide counterpoint to the present-day investigation. The relationship between Ander and Gary, and that between Ander and Danny, come across with appealing tough-guy tenderness. But McGuinness’s choice to center the media’s frenzy to scapegoat Wolphram on individual manipulative reporters in print, and not on populist social media, seems quaintly out-of-date. Between musings on the conflict between media coverage and truth, the narrative often feels overly introspective and tensionless, while also failing as social commentary. Agent: Peter Straus, Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (Apr.)
"Compulsively readable . . . The prose bristles with caustic humor." - The New York Times Book Review
"This is a writer worth knowing . . . [Throw Me to the Wolves] combines elegant prose with caustic commentary on romance, education and crime." - The Washington Post
"Layers literary complexity and depth over a fully satisfying crime story. A smart police procedural that deftly integrates its protagonist’s past and present in his search for a murderer." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"This is literary fiction as it should be: in stylish, surprising, lyrical sentences we are forced to confront the hidden power structures, public and private, that control our everyday lives. It’s reminiscent of Edward St Aubyn, not only in its pillorying of the elite, but the pleasure McGuinness takes in having his characters say clever things. It’s also a proper page-turner." - Melissa Katsoulis, The Times
"Wonderfully unsettling . . . Packs a decidedly noirish punch." - Booklist
"McGuinness's police procedural doubles as a wily takedown of tabloid culture." - Shelf Awareness
"Throw Me to the Wolves is a powerful story of media manipulation and how otherwise decent people can be corrupted by the power of money and influence . . . McGuinness masterfully brings the cases together in an intelligent narrative, both emotional and poignant." - New York Journal of Books
"Throw Me To The Wolves is a significant literary achievement that also happens to be a terrific page-turner. Patrick McGuinness is a writer with a shrewd eye for corruption and hypocrisy in all its forms, and here he turns his attention to the mysteries of memory, groupthink, and political trauma. This is a subtle piece of storytelling wrapped up in a murder mystery, a book that put me in mind of the work of JG Farrell and Patricia Highsmith." - Jonathan Lee, author of High Dive
"A big, serious, elegantly written, darkly entertaining study of what school does to us, and how life afterwards can turn into a nightmare. McGuinness is a novelist of the old school, where the best and most lasting lessons were taught." - John Banville, author of MRS. OSMOND and THE SEA
"An extraordinary writer of great compassion, McGuinness combines a mesmerizing crime novel with a forensic look at the brutalizing mechanisms of the British Public School system. Stunning." - Denise Mina, author of FIELD OF BLOOD
"Throw Me to the Wolves could be described as a crime novel or as a State of the Nation novel. It fits into both those categories, but it offers much more than such convenient labels would suggest. It's a book seriously concerned with, and about, people who function on the fringe of society. Patrick McGuinness is an observant and reflective storyteller of a special kind." - Paul Bailey, author of THE PRINCE'S BOY
"[An] elegiac exploration of memory and the legacy of childhood trauma, Throw Me to the Wolves is intensely powerful, and a beautifully measured evocation of the way that [the past] is far from being dead." - The Guardian
"Confirms McGuinness as one of the finest British authors of his generation--a writer who looks poised, on the evidence of his two magnificent works of prose, to become what Evelyn Waugh called PG Wodehouse: the head of the profession." - Best Global Nonfiction of the Year, New Republic on OTHER PEOPLE'S COUNTRIES
"McGuinness writes so very well . . . Observant, reflective, witty and precise. He is capable of combining the essayistic, the lyrical, the humorous and the aphoristic, sometimes within a single paragraph." - Francine Prose, New York Times
"The sharply observant McGuinness has . . . captured the way corruption and tyranny warp behavior in any society." - Carole Burns, The Washington Post on THE LAST HUNDRED DAYS
A young girl is strangled on the banks of the Thames, her dismembered body stuffed in bin bags. The prime suspect is a former teacher at the elite Chapelton College. He's savaged in the press, as well as on social media. Ander, one of the detectives assigned to the case is an "old boy" of the college who remembers the teacher. The story unfolds in two strands, one detailing the media frenzy, the other with the detective's memories of his time at the school in the 1980s with its rampant bullying and political and social troubles. McGuinness settles on what might be the perfect metaphor for his grim portrait of British society, a fatberg, that sewer-blocking, congealed, pulsating body of greasy detritus wrapped around discarded personal hygiene items and garbage bags. VERDICT Familiar plot elements are reinvigorated by McGuinness (a prize-winning poet and author of a previous novel, The Last Hundred Days, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize), his piercingly acute descriptions and telling sense of detail. This novel has the touch of a flayed poet about it, and that's meant in the best sense. [See Prepub Alert, 10/8/18.]—Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO
An English detective works to solve a mystery that's shadowed by memories of his boarding school days.
A few days before Christmas, a young woman's body, stuffed into a trash bag, is dragged from a river bank in an unnamed city southeast of London. Lead detective Alexander "Ander" Widdowson's search for the perpetrator becomes complicated when his charismatic English teacher from three decades ago, now retired, is identified as the prime suspect. Based on scant physical evidence, the police apprehend Michael Wolphram, the victim's neighbor, a fastidious bachelor with a taste for luxuries "for the ear, the eye and the mind, not for the body," like Wagner's music and "films that have subtitles and last four hours." Almost immediately, the arrest ignites a media frenzy fueled by an unscrupulous reporter with an open checkbook who's happy to compensate anyone even remotely connected to the suspect, at least those willing to dish dirt of dubious quality that will fuel the public's lust for vengeance. With expert pacing, McGuinness (The Last Hundred Days, 2012, etc.) smoothly juxtaposes Ander's doubts that the crime has been so easily solved with flashbacks to memories of Wolphram, fueling his disbelief that his former instructor is a man capable of murder. Ander's colleague Gary, a cynical police veteran with a penchant for handing out dismissive nicknames (Ander is "Prof" in deference to his university degree), brings both street smarts and comic relief to the tale. McGuinness' intelligent prose and his frequent, but unobtrusive, riffs on subjects like instant street shrines to murder victims (the "business of death and mourning as public property, like the Olympics or royalty") or the venom of the British tabloid press, determined to "take a man's past and coat him in guilt," are consistent added pleasures in a novel that layers literary complexity and depth over a fully satisfying crime story.
A smart police procedural that deftly integrates its protagonist's past and present in his search for a murderer.