Book Review: Werewolf Cop by Andrew Klavan

Guys, I read the craziest book over the past couple weeks, and I just had to tell you about it.

It’s Werewolf Cop, by Andrew Klavan, and if the title alone doesn’t make you want to read it, I don’t know what to tell you.

Werewolf Cop

 

From Amazon’s description:

Zach Adams is one of the best detectives in the country. Nicknamed Cowboy, he’s a soft-spoken homicide detective known for his integrity and courage under fire. He serves on a federal task force that has a single mission: to hunt down Dominic Abend, a European gangster who has taken over the American underworld.

In a centuries-old forest under a full moon, a beast assaults Zach, cursing him forever. In the aftermath, he is transformed into something horrible—something deadly.

Now, the good cop has innocent blood on his hands. He has killed—and will kill again—in the form of a beast who can’t be controlled or stopped. Before he can free himself, he’s going to have to solve the greatest mystery of all: How can you defeat evil when the evil is inside you?

This isn’t the type of book I typically read. Crime novels aren’t really my thing, and I generally steer clear of anything horror-related. But Andrew Klavan is one of my favorite podcasters, and I’m generally interested in what he has to say. Plus, like I said, the title intrigued me, so I decided to give it a shot.

And I’m glad I did. I was deeply impressed by this book. Klavan is a fantastic writer. There is a good balance of action and introspection, and the prose is  smooth and intelligent without ever becoming pretentious. Heck, I even learned some cool words while reading this book, which is always fun. The characters are compelling, especially the Houston-born, cowboy-type protagonist, Zach Adams. Setting-wise, this book is spot on—a werewolf attack in the middle of the Black Forest in Germany? Awesome!

I wouldn’t have predicted this, but Werewolf Cop was actually an uplifting read. I guess amid the werewolf and shoot-’em-up mayhem I wasn’t expecting so much discussion of good and evil and down-home-old-timey-American values. Zach confronts evil in many different forms—his own sins, the werewolf curse, and Dominic Abend—and in each case it would be so easy for him to take the easy way out, let the “natural man” (or wolf) take over, and blame the universe for the hand he’s been dealt. But in each case he manages—barely—to do what’s right.

Here are some quotes I thought were really interesting:

“Peace would be wonderful, the most wonderful thing,” she said, “if only there were no God. Then there would be no good or evil, nothing to fight over. But there is, you see. There is good and there is evil. And if you will not fight for the good, if you will not suffer for the good, if you will not accept pain even unto the pain of your own damnation for the good, then there is only evil.”

“You know the word liebestod? […] Love-death, it means. A song or story about lovers who must together die. Romeo and Juliet—these you know, yes? But Americans do not tell such stories. Each one is everything to himself there, so I think. And always they believe they will make for themselves the happy ending. They do not know about liebestod.” […]
“And yet it has been like that for me and my country. […] Liebestod. I have sacrificed even my immortal soul to defend her—to defend her from evil and from death—to chase them through the centures of unbelief, alone in my understanding of them. Umsonst. For nothing. I have failed and she is gone. My country…my continent…my culture….”

“It’s just…Well, there comes a time in a person’s life when doing wrong just makes perfect sense to him. And if he hasn’t got…well, something in him—” He knew she was going to say The Word but had amended it to suit his more broad-minded view. “If he hasn’t got something in him that makes him say ‘Well, I don’t care what sense it makes, I’m not doing wrong anyhow,’ then that’s when the Enemy can make his move on him.”

I’d hesitate before reading this book again. There’s some foul language, which isn’t my cup of tea. Predictably, there are some graphic descriptions of people getting mauled by werewolves and chopped up by German gangsters. Also, Zach has an affair (before the story begins) and agonizes over it in way more detail than I’m comfortable with.

(I was also creeped out a few times because in my head the bad guy sounded like the German perinatologist who delivered Dan, and another major character sounded like the chain smoking German lady who runs the local schnitzel establishment, but that’s a personal problem.)

That said, Werewolf Cop is a fantastic book, and I’m glad I read it. I’ll probably give it a solid 4 stars on Goodreads and call it a day.

I’ll leave you with Wagner’s Liebestod, from the opera Tristan und Isolde. It’s appropriate, and worth eight minutes of your time.

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