Thursday, June 18, 2015

Werewolf Cop

Many if not all FrontPage readers are no doubt familiar with the political/cultural commentary of writer Andrew Klavan that has appeared in City Journal, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and elsewhere. Many are familiar with his political videos and appearances on Glenn Beck, Hannity and Red Eye. Perhaps you even know that he has been tapped to script an upcoming movie about the Gosnell abortion horrors. But if you’re not familiar with his novels as well, don’t waste any more time reading this review. Go instead to the nearest bookstore, if you can find one anymore, and check the shelves between Stephen King and Dean Koontz; or go online to order his books. Either way, prepare to be entertained.

If you are familiar with Klavan’s internationally bestselling crime novels (for which he has been nominated for the Mystery Writers of America’s prestigious Edgar Award five times, winning twice), the films like True Crime and Don’t Say A Word that were made from them, and his Young Adult thrillers including the bestselling Homelanders series, then read on about his newest novel. [Full disclosure: he is also a friend of mine]

As I have written before about Klavan, he writes page-turners of unusually high literary quality, bursting with grand themes and big ideas but centered on sympathetic characters. He will carry you into dark depths but with a surprisingly comic touch, and the ride is always gripping and entertaining. And that has never been truer than with his latest book, Werewolf Cop.

Considering its title, I don’t think it requires a spoiler alert to reveal that the book is about a cop who becomes a werewolf. Zach Adams and his partner Martin Goulart are the chief detectives in an Extraordinary Crimes task force in pursuit of an international criminal mastermind – German-Russian billionaire Dominic Abend, who himself is in pursuit of a mysterious dagger of supernatural power. Zach is warned by creepy European Professor Dankl that if Abend finds the dagger before they do, the world is in deep, dark danger.

As one character tells Zach, “We ain’t fighting against flesh and blood no more. We’re fighting against principalities. And powers. Against spiritual forces in the heavenly places. This is a battle against good and evil, Agent Adams.”

Zach initially doesn’t buy all this weird nonsense, but he feels compelled to dig deeper. His meeting with Dankl turns into a terrifying and deadly confrontation with evil on a scale most people have never imagined, much less experienced – and he comes away infected with it. The book then goes into overdrive as Zach races against time to stop Dominic Abend while also wrestling with his moonlight transformation into a beast of ravenous fury – not to mention trying to keep his marriage intact. 

As always in Klavan’s novels, there is more to the story than just the noir atmosphere, the sexual tension, and the twists and turns of the plot. His protagonists are up against not only their antagonists but their own humanity as well. His books aren’t simply about the good guys taking down the bad; they are about men who must come to terms with their own weakness and sin, and that spiritual depth is where Klavan excels and what gives his crime thrillers a unique dimension.

In Werewolf Cop, Zach’s struggle against the evil he has literally internalized is more than a matter of life and death. As another character tells Zach, “evil can only be thwarted where people are willing to sacrifice themselves to fight it – to sacrifice not only their lives but their very souls.” That’s a daunting prospect, but what Zach has in his corner is “the courage to do what had to be done” and “the mysterious force of human will, like a tiny rudder steering a great ship,” that he needs “to wake from the dream of the wolf’s desire.”

As if that epic contest weren’t enough, Zach has another battle on his hands: he is wracked with guilt for a lone affair he has kept secret from his wife and the mother of his children – a secret that is in imminent danger of being exposed. And yet in this conflict lies the seed of victory against the evil that possesses him. That seed is an even more powerful force than the human will: love.

Don’t make the mistake of passing on this book because you’re not into novels with an element of horror and the supernatural. Give it a chance – the mystery, the harrowing action, the fully-drawn characters, the sexual and spiritual tension, and the skillful prose will draw you in.

Klavan is politically conservative but not a politically conservative novelist, if I may make that distinction. He isn’t hurling ideological bricks thinly disguised as crime thrillers. He understands, as too many other conservative artists do not, that conveying conservative values is simply a matter of telling good stories that address very human themes: the courage of the individual against corruption and control; the very personal role of faith in a fallen world; the power of forgiveness and love; the existence of evil and its eternal conflict with good.

It isn’t necessary for a writer to be overtly political while trafficking in these themes, or to shoehorn in any heavy-handed messages. All the writer has to do is, like Klavan, be adept at keeping the reader turning the pages and caring about the characters. The values inherent in the tale will then resonate with the reader on their own.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 6/17/15)