Debut Review: Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow

Sharp TeethTitle: Sharp Teeth
Author: Toby Barlow
Publisher: William Heinemann
Published in Hardback: 02 August 2007
Price: 12.99
Review Copy

Before I get into the book itself I have to say that I would buy more hardbacks if they were made like this.  It doesn’t have a dust jack only a striking illustrated cover with a slight bit of texture to it. And it’s that new compact size that’s becoming more and more popular. Much more reader friendly as I don’t have to worry about ripping the paper cover and it fits nice in my hands.

That’s not the only thing unique about this book. It’s a novel-in-verse. No don’t stop reading it’s not what you think. We’ll I’m not sure what you think but if you are imagining some Shakespearean-esque poetic purple prose you’d be wrong.

 To quote Toby Barlow:

‘…I tried to write to the way my eye, a somewhat lazy and easily sleepy eye, tends to work through a page’

And it works; the words just flow as if it’s written in a kind of novelist short hand. Another reviewer suggested that Sharp Teeth ‘is closer to Raymond Chandler, another chronicler of the underside of L.A., than to any poet’ and I’d tend to agree.

The poetic leanings come from the structure and the way story slips into your mind and as with any engine you don’t need to see how it works, you just need to hear it roar.

On top of this engine is a hardboiled crime novel with an animalistic twist:  packs of werewolves’ flight and scheme as a dog-catcher falls for a woman who can’t escape her blood. It has everything you need guns, girls, and a mystery to solve. Oh and blood though blood doesn’t bond these animals. Loyalties change when the wind is no longer blowing in the right direction.

Barlow, has thought this tale through. He sets up the game but the players and their hands remain hidden until the end. There aren’t that many flaws either at least any that wouldn’t count as nitpicking.  

These are no clichéd moon-howling-hounds – they are myths made real.  As with the best urban fantasy, this highly original novel-in-verse grounds itself in reality. So much so you might not look at a stray dog the same way again. You are going to be hard pressed to find something as complete and compelling as this for a while. My only doubt is how Toby Barlow is going to top this. If Sharp Teeth doesn’t win a few awards I’d be highly surprised.

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