Wolf (Jack Caffrey 7) by Mo Hayder

Well written, unsavoury pulp…

😦 😦

WolfFollowing heart surgery, Oliver Anchor-Ferrars is delighted to get down to his country house to relax and recuperate. He and his wife, Matilda, have brought their grownup daughter, Lucia, with them. Lucia has never recovered from the trauma of the murder of her ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend when she was young, and is back living with her parents after yet another job and relationship breakdown. But the country idyll is destroyed when two men come into their home, take the family captive and begin a long-drawn out episode of torture and humiliation…

Mo Hayder is one of those popular authors whose books are always billed as ‘heart-stopping’, ‘pulse-racing’, ‘terrifying’, etc. To be honest, I’ve always thought the blurbs make them look rather graphic, but decided it was time to at least try one. I rather wish I hadn’t. I realise lots of people love Hayder and clearly in the end taste is always subjective. But while I felt there was some skill in the basic writing and pacing of the book, the plot, which started out fairly well, became increasingly inconsistent and unbelievable as the book wore on till, quite frankly, it reached the point of absurdity in the end. And I fear the repeated twists and turns played such havoc with the characterisation that by the end the only believable character in the house was Matilda – the rest had had their personalities so clumsily changed so often throughout the course of the book that they had lost all credibility.

The detective, DI Jack Caffrey, is of course an angst-ridden loner, damaged by his past – a maverick who in this book at least is working entirely outside the structure of the job on his own personal vendetta, hampered on occasion by his over-indulgence in alcohol. I find it hard to think how he could have been more clichéd.

Mo Hayder
Mo Hayder

I feel anyone who has been subjected to my reviews has already heard me rant often enough about the tendencies towards sleaze and graphic violence in today’s crime fiction, so I’ll spare us all the tirade. For the benefit of anyone new to Hayder trying to decide whether this book is for them, I will merely point out, as the blurb fails to, that this book contains physical and psychological torture, explicit descriptions of people’s innards in various stages of putrefaction, episodes of graphic violence, scenes of animal cruelty, the obligatory naked woman sexual humiliation scene (with an imaginative twist, though – Hayder chooses to humiliate an elderly naked woman rather than the usual beautiful young girl – much more tasteful, eh?) and, although the use of foul language is sparing, it’s also strong. Oh, and while we don’t actually get treated to descriptions of paedophilia, the references are all there.

Since as far as I can see the book doesn’t set out to be anything more substantial than entertainment, then it all comes down to whether the reader finds the subject matter entertaining. I didn’t. In truth, I found it to be reasonably well written, unsavoury pulp with an absurd plot, and am entirely untempted to read any more of Hayder’s work.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Transworld.

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37 thoughts on “Wolf (Jack Caffrey 7) by Mo Hayder

  1. I think you may have started with the wrong Mo Hayder book – I didn’t feel it was her best either and I agree it was all far too graphic. I personally liked her book ‘Tokyo’ (aka The Devil of Nanking) best, which is not part of a series, and where the violence feels much more justified.

    • Certainly I was surprised at how bad I thought this one was given the number of rave reviews I’ve seen for Hayder over the last few years. The violence etc isn’t to my taste anyway, but I really thought the plot and characterisation were very poor too. Oh well – saves me adding to the TBR, I suppose… 😉

  2. I guess it’s one of the things I enjoy about comparing notes on books – opinions can vary so much. I have read & enjoyed all Mo Hayder’s books in the Caffrey series. I agree they can be shocking, even upsetting at times and Wolf is the most extreme example. However I quibble with the ‘pulp’ description and believe Hayder’s writing is top quality. Interesting review that may well save some readers, of a nervous disposition, from wasting their time & money on s book that wouldn’t suit them.

    • Hmm…I wouldn’t describe myself as being of a ‘nervous disposition’. It wasn’t that I found this book scary – I didn’t at all – dull in fact would be a closer description. No, my objection is to it being distasteful, not frightening. It’s to do with what you find entertaining – naked women and animals being tortured just isn’t my thing. Glad you enjoyed it though.

  3. Haha! Spectacular review! And you know, I had high hopes for this one, if I recall correctly. But I knew the ripio was coming. Brilliant!

    Yes… I must admit, all the violence would be hard to take. (It’s different on the battlefield, of course.) I’m surprised you didn’t quit!

  4. FictionFan – Thank you as ever for your candor. Like you I think that Hayder writes well. But those graphic scenes? Now I’m seriously debating whether to read this or not. I was thinking of it, but…

    • Well, as you know, Margot, I seem to swim against the tide as far as appreciation of modern crime fiction goes – but really I couldn’t see much that made this worth struggling past the torture and cruelty aspects.

  5. Hmmmmm . not one for my TBR pile then (heaves sigh of relief) the well-written phrase might have lured, but, unsavoury? pulp? I think not. Fruit pulp I can handle, and even enjoy (strawberries mashed up, yum) but unsavoury pulp goes straight to the recycle bin. This sounds utterly horrid, and not worthy of any stars at all…….minus stars…..black hole ratings?

    • Indeed not! I’m quite sure you would find it as distasteful as I did. When the only purpose of a book is to shock by piling on gratuitous horror after horror, then it’s a fail before it even begins. Throw in an absurd plot and some ridiculous characters and I admit I’m not quite sure what the two stars are for myself…for being able to write grammatically?

  6. Come on now FF, don’t hold back – tell us what you really think! I’ve never read any of these, because even the blurbs put me off. As far as I am concerned “less is more” when it comes to violence and gore – when Marguerite got her feet cut in “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, I was much more upset than I am nowadays by buckets of blood. I’m not sure what that level of desensitisation says about our society. Great review though.

    • Haha! I thought I was being quite subtle too! Yes, the blurbs have always put me off too, but loads of people really rave about these. At risk of repeating myself, I seem to be completely out of step with the way crime has gone – bring back mysteries and decent detectives!! And yes, it always leaves me worried about society too that this is what we choose as entertainment. I think I’m getting old…and sometimes that seems like a good thing.

  7. I am unfamiliar with this author and her work. I fear it will continue to be the case. If I want to read something like that, I’ll just turn on the TV news.

  8. When I checked your blog for a new review and saw ‘unsavoury pulp’ I knew this was a review I’d enjoy. Mo Hayder has never graced my TBR (see there is plenty of room) precisely because I feared they went over the line which I find entertaining and I’m so glad you’ve saved me the trouble of wondering whether I was missing out on something good… Thanks for the review as always FictionFan, it is good to have someone confirm my choices, good and bad.

    • Haha! Thanks, Cleo! Yes, I don’t know what finally persuaded me to try after carefully avoiding these for years, but sometimes I get carried away… In this case, though, all my fears were confirmed unfortunately.

  9. I haven’t read any Mo Hayder books although I am a fan of crime fiction. However of late, there haven’t been any really challenging novels in this genre.

    I don’t really mind violence in books but have to agree that of late, crime fiction has become more and more graphic and distasteful and the plots and characters more and more cliched. And I am so over serial killers and paedophilia in novels.

    • I still enjoy some of my old favourites, but I’m finding a lot of the new stuff is pretty cliched. I don’t mind violence either really when it’s necessary and relevant – but so often it’s just thrown in to spice up a non-existent and uncreative plot, and then I find it really lazy and distasteful.

      Still, no doubt I’ll stick with the genre for a while yet and keep hoping for better. Meantime, there’s always ‘cosies’…

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