What a book!

October 4, 2011

Review: Sharp Teeth

Filed under: Crime,Fiction,Noir,Poetry — mike @ 5:34 am

Sharp Teeth
Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are an awful lot of awful and irritating supernatural books out now so you may be leery about this one, as it’s ostensibly about werewolves. But you should read this anyway.

If you had to make your way through The Odyssey and Beowulf in high school (I enjoyed the former then and did not appreciate the latter until much later), you are of course familiar with the writing of stories in verse, which more or less made its way out of the oral tradition of telling stories, I guess. This story is told in verse, but it doesn’t feel like someone looking for a hook for an MFA project to appear all high-minded. Rather, this is what would come out if Homer read Dashiell Hammett and pitched a new epic poem to Steven Spielberg. “Sharp Teeth” would be darn good story that comes out of it.

The story is basically a noir LA gang story, and the gang members all happen to be werewolves. And that trait is presented as straightforwardly as any other quality, like height or hair color. Other, non-were, characters include a dogcatcher (lots of dark little humor in this, as well as bigger laughs) who wonders about some dogs acting strangely, and a cop who’s tracking a series of strange, savage murders of dogcatchers.

And thanks to the cleanness and spareness of the verse, this story moves along quickly so you want to keep turning pages, long after your eyes begin to droop, as you can almost hear the author muttering the tale out of the side of his mouth in a fluorescent-lit, whiskey-soaked, smoky agora.

If you like noir, read this book. If you like some supernatural fiction, read this book. If you’re Team Jacob, or wish you were one of the meth-crazed hillbilly wolves in ‘True Blood,’ it may not be wolfie enough for you, but read it anyway to broaden your horizons.

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