There are a lot of really great things about this “modern noir” book, which is why I kept reading until the very end. I picked it up primarily because of the disabled main characters, which is a diversity not often seen in fiction. While their combat injuries certainly informed their characters, neither men were ever defined by them. The best scenes were Clay in modern day, because his narrative voice very much evoked the old-fashioned hard-boiled detective without becoming overwhelming or dropping into cliche.
Unfortunately, this book suffered from trying to incorporate too much. The current-day plot and drama were solid without having to continuously drop us back into the flashbacks of how Clay and Roddy were injured overseas. In particular, this made the ending drag on when I really wanted to find out how things ended up in the here and now. Though the two stories correlated thematically, the “origin story” aspect of it was unnecessary. I already cared about the two men for who they were now.
The true villain of the story was a muddy issue, which emphasized the noir aspects of this novel. In the end, nobody was a “good guy,” because even all of the good guys had blood on their hands. I really enjoyed the dichotomy of all of this happening in sunny California rather than a more typical dark atmospheric location like New York or Chicago.
The “speculative fiction” elements of this plot could have been more emphasized or left out altogether. I’m still not sure what to think of the whole mind control thing even after the fact. In addition, the treatment of women (both as written characters and by men in the story) was also typical to what might be expected in old-fashioned noir tales, whereas I’ve started to expect more from modern authors.
Readers of thrillers, modern crime, old-school noir, and war stories will probably all be more forgiving of this novel than I am. Despite my critiques, I genuinely wanted to see Clay and Roddy come out on top and get their happy endings, and the ending more than satisfied on all accounts.
Rating: 3 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.
Currently reading: Tempest, edited by Mercedes Lackey
Currently writing: 89,287/90k words
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