A magnificent second novel from the Booker-longlisted author
A young woman has been murdered, and a neighbour, a retired teacher from Chapleton College, is arrested. An eccentric loner – intellectual, shy, a fastidious dresser with expensive tastes – he is the perfect candidate for a media monstering.
In custody he is interviewed by two detectives: the smart-talking, quick-witted Gary, and his watchful colleague, Ander. Ander is always watchful, but particularly now, because the man across the table is his former teacher – Michael Wolphram – whom he hasn’t seen in nearly 30 years.
As the novel proceeds, we watch Wolphram’s media lynching as ex-pupils and colleagues line up to lie about him. In parallel, we read Ander’s memories of his life as a young Dutch boy in 80s England. Another outsider, another loner in a school system rife with abuse and bullying, Ander has another case to solve: the cold case of his own childhood.
Though it deals with historical abuse and violence in schools, and the corrupt power of the popular media, Throw Me to the Wolves is mostly about childhood and memory. A perceptive and pertinent novel of our times, beautifully written and psychologically acute, it manages to be both very funny and – at the same time – shatteringly sad.
“Throw Me to the Wolves is, on the face of it, a made-for-TV procedural police drama… Scratch the surface, however, and all of Britain’s restless undercurrents are churning away… 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
“This is a writer worth knowing… [McGuinness] combines elegant prose with caustic commentary on romance, education and crime… most people can write for a lifetime and not produce so perfect a sentence.”
Patrick Anderson, Washington Post
“Blisteringly effective, written with an almost hallucinogenic clarity… Throw Me to the Wolves is intensely powerful.”
Justine Jordon, Guardian
“An extraordinary writer of great compassion, McGuinness combines a mesmerising crime novel with a forensic look at the brutalising mechanisms of the British Public School system. Stunning.”
“This second novel from Man Booker-longlisted McGuinness is a compassionate, funny and ultimately moving indictment of the gutter press, social media and boarding schools.”
Phil Baker, Sunday Times
“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.”
“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.”
“Intelligent and troubling… [Throw Me To The Wolves] invites reflection about the state of morality today, about the lust for witch-hunts and the zeal to punish.”
Allan Massie, Scotsman
“McGuinness plays… [the plot] out beautifully, allowing each aspect of the story to resonate meaningfully with the others… [he lets] the story unspool at its own pace while he explores all its facets in clean prose polished to the point of translucence.”
“McGuinness is an intelligent and thoughtful writer, and his portrait of detective Ander is fully of wry observations about modern life and societal change.”
James Moran, Tablet, *Novel of the Week*
“Thoughtful, sometimes provocative… at the heart of [Throw Me to the Wolves] is a moving meditation on childhood and the ways in which it lives on in all of us.”
“An absorbing novel… what [McGuinness] withholds in suspense and action he amply repays in the form of language: on virtually every page, there are perfectly judged descriptions that reveal something about the world.”
William Skidelsky, Financial Times