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 ... McGuinness...spins his tale with some beautiful, unashamedly intellectual prose. It’s a pity that the female characters are mostly one-dimensional archetypes...However, in all other respects 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.
This is a writer worth knowing ... combines elegant prose with caustic commentary on romance, education and crime in his homeland ... McGuinness has an eloquent touch ... Diogenes’s lament is a fitting title for a tale so unburdened by illusions.
McGuinness has fun with the colour and cliche of crime fiction...but the novel, like the insubstantial Ander, is strangely disconnected from its main plot line. Instead, the book’s beating heart is firmly in the past ... These sections are sad, furious and blisteringly effective, written with an almost hallucinogenic clarity ... [These] various hauntings are the novel’s real subject, to the extent that the tabloid pursuit of Wolphram, in the shape of a female journalist who unspools stagey state-of-the-nation speeches, feels like a brasher intrusion from another book. In its elegiac exploration of memory and the legacy of childhood trauma, though, Throw Me to the Wolves is intensely powerful, and a beautifully measured evocation of the way that far from being dead the past is, as Faulkner said, not even past.
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. There are two stories entwined, Wolphram’s and Widdowson’s. McGuiness masterfully brings the cases together in an intelligent narrative, both emotional and poignant.
This isn’t simply a murder enquiry for Ander, any more than Throw Me to the Wolves is a straightforward whodunnit ... McGuinness plays all this out beautifully, allowing each aspect of the story to resonate meaningfully with the others.
The mob mentality whipped up by certain teachers in flashbacks may have taken place in the 1980s, but in this context they feel chillingly contemporary. Having the contemplative Ander as his narrator gives McGuinness the opportunity to let the story unspool at its own pace while he explores all its facets in clean prose polished to the point of translucence.
While the awfulness of boarding school life is hardly a neglected theme in British fiction, McGuinness makes it fresh ... Ultimately, it’s this attentiveness that makes Throw Me to the Wolves such an absorbing novel. McGuinness may have eschewed most of the conventional thrills of procedural fiction, but what he 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 ... This is a novel that worries about ignorance and hostility — but which also demonstrates, through its fine-grained language, what the best corrective is.
Oxford don McGuinness mixes mystery with reflection in his second novel...The title hints at the wonderfully unsettling quality of this mystery ... McGuinness’ portrayal of the British media hounding the suspect builds brilliantly. The story is told from Ander’s point of view, which is both fascinating and annoying, since Ander is so prone to reflection. However, the overall effect packs a decidedly noirish punch.
This novel is digressive, but compulsively readable, in part because of the author’s precise handling of the moral climate in which the story plays out ... Rare flashes of kindness and civility shine forth like beacons in all this murk ... The story is bleak, but the prose bristles with caustic humor ... Throw Me to the Wolves is sophisticated in its use of demotic language and police procedure, and keenly alert to the shabbiest impulses of both the British media and the British private school system.
Mob rule is Mr. McGuinness’s quarry here, both in the ensuing tabloid hysteria that makes a monster of Wolphram before any evidence has been brought against him and in Ander’s flashbacks to the dog-eat-dog world of boarding school. This is a crime novel with a philosophical bent. The seamy, corrupted atmosphere of present-day London is reminiscent of James Ellroy’s Los Angeles. But the detective procedural is anticlimactic, since Wolphram’s innocence is obvious from the start.