Marche scrutinizes the rapaciousness of contemporary media moguls by cleverly reimagining them as actual wolves.
Part realist portrait of upper-crust lives, part lycanthropic fairy tale, the fourth novel by Marche (Love and the Mess We’re In, 2012, etc.), is narrated by Jamie Cabot, a young magazine journalist who loves New York City so much he’s willing to lose his wife to stay there. Hunting for a story that’ll help him keep the lights on, he begins investigating the Wylie family, which parlayed one Alberta radio station into a global media empire and whose patriarch was recently found dead in the wilderness. Jamie, whose family once did odd jobs on the Wylies’ Canadian compound, sneaks into their home, liberates some diaries and correspondence, and learns that at adolescence the Wylie men turn wolflike and feral with every full moon. The novel alternates Jamie’s callow efforts to turn the Wylie story into a payday with a history of the family’s rise to power. The latter portions are superb: Marche’s knowledge of radio and newspapers, as well as his portraits of the low-caste but hungry Wylies claiming their perches among the upper crust, is detailed and convincing; the wolfish back story, so easy to bungle, is persuasive and gracefully handled. Yet the Wylies aren’t prone to consider the moral consequences of their actions, and neither is Jamie, which makes the novel feel somewhat like an inverted Great Gatsby, in which the characters are untouched by hubris; greed, if not strictly good, has charms the workaday world is foolish to neglect. “Every billionaire is a distinct experiment in what happens when everything is permitted,” Jamie thinks. It’s not a judgment.
An entertaining, curious journey into the beating black hearts that occupy the penthouse suites and those who aspire to join them.