In the aftermath of Brexit, the body of a young woman is found by the river Thames, and a retired teacher from Chapleton College is arrested. An eccentric loner-intellectual, he is the perfect candidate for a media monstering. Determined to salvage the truth as ex-pupils and colleagues line up against the accused, he must face a story from decades back, from his own time as a Chapleton student, at the peak of anti-Irish sentiment.
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.