|Cover by Charlotte Stroomer|
Constable, 7 May 2020
Available as: PB, 259pp, e, audio
Read as: PB
I'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of Making Wolf to consider for review.
If you have read Thompson's Rosewater trilogy you'll know that he should be seriously rated as a fiction writer but you may expect to only find him writing SFF. However with Making Wolf he's brought some of the same sensibility to the crime/ thriller genre - albeit a great deal more gore!
Making Wolf is a homeconing for Weston Kogi, a young man who left - fled - the West African state of Alcacia some fifteen years before amidst civil war. He's come back for his aunt's funeral (his aunt, who helped him get away in the first place) and doesn't intend to stay long, indeed the first part of book has some amusing scenes where it's clear that Kogi's time in London (he works as a store detective) has left him rather adrift in Alcacia. He can't bear the heat and humidity and has a a morbid fear of mosquitos.
However, those are the least of his problems. Once it comes known that he's a "detective" (he may have been vague about what sort) he becomes a prize for two warring rebel factions, each of whom wish him to prove that the other was responsible for the death of the revered Papa Busi, the only political figure who might have been able to unite the nation. Soon Kogi's plunged into a nightmare of abductions, executions, and what begins as a performative investigation meant simply to keep him alive and buy some time while he works out a way to escape.
Which is where the comedy stops, as Thompson transitions into a very smart thriller, one that allows Kogi to explore the ins and outs of Alcacian society, sketching out both its postcolonial woes and the necessities of life there. This is done through Kogi fairly quickly relearning (in order to survive) how not to appear like a gullible foreign visitor (though he has a few near misses to begin with) while not so quickly discovering exactly what's going on around him (which is what poses the greater threat).
The latter element is a satisfying complex web of motivations and double crosses - Making Wolf may be a relatively short book but there's a great deal going on here and no time at all for the story to sag.
It's good so see that Thompson leaves the ending sufficiently open that we can imagine follow-ups in which Weston Kogi turns his attention to new mysteries.
I would mention that Making Wolf contains some pretty brutal scenes - in particular a couple of gruesome deaths. They're not gratuitous (the book takes place amidst a low intensity civil war) but aren't for the squeamish.
For more about the book, see the publisher's website here.