First published back in May of 2019, British author Dave Jeffery’s novel ‘Tooth & Claw’ offered up a thick dose of fast-paced adrenaline-pumping crime thriller along with plenty of pulpy werewolf carnage.

DLS Synopsis:
Jacob Rothschild had made his fortune through crime.  Over time, he had become as successful as he was secretive.  Although even in his wealth, he kept his business affairs clandestine and off the radar.  Now he lived in a vast stately home sporting an estate of twelve-hundred acres of hills and woodlands.  Although the Cofton Grange was still in the public eye due to its historical significance, Rothschild kept his business activities their firmly under wraps.

The expansive grounds afforded the perfect location for one such lucrative venture.  There the criminal tycoon would invite carefully selected guests to hunt endangered animals.  Sport for the wealthy.  A high-value business for Rothschild.

But Rothschild’s activities hadn’t gone wholly unnoticed by the authorities.  For the last ten months Detective Constable Ian West had been posing as a waiter to Rothchild’s wealthy guests.  The undercover cop had managed to infiltrate Cofton thanks to Alana O’Shea – an informant who had a personal vendetta against Rothschild.

And tonight, there was a special hunt planned at The Grange.  Tonight, four handpicked and incredibly wealthy game hunters, all with a penchant for off-the-grid safaris, were to hunt the rarest and most ferocious of beasts.  With the moon rising in the cloudless night sky, these four would take up crossbows and silver-bladed machetes and hunt an age-old beast of folklore.  On the wooded grounds of Cofton Grange, tonight, they would be hunting a werewolf…

DLS Review:
Dave Jeffery certainly isn’t a stranger to pulpy werewolf fiction.  It’s one of the subgenre’s that seems to be in his blood.  A natural fit for his writing style, fast-paced prose, and penchant for over-the-top horror action sequences.  ‘Tooth & Claw’ is a novel bubbling over with all these ingredients.  A tale that seems to have poured from the writer’s pen from the very word until the blood-curdling last page.

In essence what we have is a classic ‘Big game hunt’ premise, akin to the likes of ‘Hard Target’ (1993).  Only here, instead of hunting humans or some endangered animal, the wealthy participators are hunting a werewolf.

For the most part, the story has two distinct narratives.  The first follows the four hunters as they attempt to track and kill their lycanthropian prey, whilst the other narrative follows D.C. Ian West and his increasingly difficult task of bringing down Rothschild’s criminal empire whilst simultaneously attempting to save his informant (and love interest) Alana O’Shea.

The former narrative sees a relatively eclectic mix of characters who’ve paid handsomely for the chance to hunt and kill a werewolf.  Of these you have Martin “Marty” Woodhead who’s described as a small man with a big old chip on his shoulder.  Then there’s Oscar Jarman, a troubled fella with plenty of skeleton’s in his closet, who’d built his own empire based on a fabrication of lies.  Finally, you have Pippa and Antonia Okill.  Cousins who had been raised as sisters following the death of their parents.  The Okill sisters had since become incredibly wealthy, thanks to an uncle with powerful criminal connections.

This ‘werewolf hunting’ narrative is one that’s rammed full of mounting suspense and adrenaline-pumping action.  Indeed, once the four hunters are out in their respective segments of Cofton’s woodland estate, it feels like a pulpy cross between ‘Predator’ (1987) and ‘Dog Soldiers’ (2002).  Of course, it’s not long before the hunter becomes the hunted, as things start to go pear-shaped for each of the would-be hunters.

In between these chapters the novel takes up the second parallel-running narrative, following undercover cop D.C. West as his infiltration into The Grange falls apart.  This side of the story is equally as tense, although with more of a ‘Shaun Hutson thriller’ vibe to it.  It quickly becomes a rescue and escape mission, of course with the odds stacked against the undercover cop from the outset.

To get the most out of the novel you have to embrace the pulpy nature of the story, suspending disbelief and simply sitting back and enjoying the action-packed ride for what it is.  Characterisation is moderate at best, but that’s not really an issue here.  Instead, the tale focuses upon pumping in the thrills and bloodspills of a messed up big game hunt gone wrong.

Although it’s very much a pulp horror in its fundamental nature, Jeffrey doesn’t deliver all that much in the way of over-the-top gore.  Bloodspill is instead hinted at more than it is depicted to any visceral degree.  That’s not to say there’s no splattering’s of such.  However, for the most part, we’re left to imagine the more grotesque aspects of the kills, rather than Jeffery laying the guts out on a platter.

For sheer entertainment factor alone, ‘Tooth & Claw’ is a novel that’s hard not to find fun.  It’s short and pretty much straight into the heart of the plot.  Surprisingly, the werewolf side of the story takes a bit of a backseat during much of the tale, only really coming to the forefront in the final third-or-so of the book.  However, the fast-paced thriller and constantly churning suspense is where the real strength lies here.  And with those aspects, Jeffery has done himself proud once again.

The novel runs for a total of 130 pages.

© DLS Reviews


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