Werewolf by Night

Fangs of the Werewolf by John Halkin is a terrific monster novel for young readers. But it’s also a pretty good mystery story as well.

A “wolf-man” is heard serenading the moon near a remote Welsh mountain village. The howling, according to Halkin, haunts the night like a wandering spirit’s distress call.

Since wolves died out in Wales generations ago, the locals (and various outliers) start freaking out. What’s going on, they wonder? Specifically, who among them is the bawling beast??

Halkin ramps up the tension by sprinkling his novel with an assortment of colorful characters who may be the werewolf by night. As a reader, you’ll have fun trying to figure it all out.

Keep in mind that when the author uses the word “werewolf,” he’s using it in the most inclusive and general way possible. If you’re an etymologist, you already know that “were” is an old word meaning “man,” as in mankind, humankind, hominid. So it’s perfectly reasonable to suspect both gentlemen and ladies.

Is it Gareth Rhys, the village oddball? How about sporty Sabina Llewellyn? Or Joan Ellis, the woman from the dog pound? Or maybe bartender Tegwyn Jones? Or sheriff Griffith Owen? Or his son? There’s even some evidence that the werewolf might be flirty barmaid Vicky Foster and/or her two tweener kids.

For clues, always pay attention to the advice of the local wise woman (all villages have one). Old Blodwen Roberts has been around for 80 years and she knows a thing or two about “lycanthropic metamorphosis.” She had a close encounter with a werewolf when she was a young girl, and now she’s the wizened “guardian of the silver.”

After teasing the reader for 11 chapters, the author reveals the werewolf’s identity and provides a satisfying climax. For the record, I sussed out the monster early on. But I admit, it was a lucky guess.

In the final moments, a decision has to be made. Do you, at this critical moment, surrender your will to the moonlight’s mysteries and the scents on the night breeze? Or do you remain a mere human and never experience true independence, or true strength or the true joy of living in harmony with the natural world?

No matter the outcome, says Old Blodwen, your true self will be lost forever. “If a genuine werewolf were to watch itself in a mirror, which shape would it see—wolf or human?”

[Fangs of the Werewolf / By John Halkin / First Printing: September 1988 / ISBN: 9780812040715]