Midnight, Water City
July 14, 2021

Book Review

Midnight, Water City

reviewed by Lou Jacobs


A noir-type of police procedural in the setting of a cinematic backdrop of future Hawaii, 2142, rivaling that of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Society has drastically changed with the advent of progressive technology, but some things never change—there remain vast disparities in wealth.

The rich live in luxury under the ocean in seascrapers or on top skyscrapers, while the Less Thans dwell in habitats in the packed cities or possibly escape to the “floatburbs.” Holographic ads invade everyone’s space. Age has been expanded by the usage of AMP hibernation chambers. Cell phones have been made obsolete by iE’s, that everyone seems to carry and record their entire life, as well as provide communication. There are pharmaceutical advancements with “pills” for everything, even the changing skin color. Flying cars are present for the privileged.

Amongst the trappings of this future society there exists an antihero detective, and much like Sergio Leone’s “Man With No Name,” our intrepid eighty year old police detective remains unnamed. And, in a similar fashion he is a man of few words, gruff, eccentric, but with an unorthodox sense of justice that frequently involves killing or at least violence. He remains flawed and morally compromised.

The action and intrigue initiate immediately as he is summoned by his oldest and dearest friend and previous employer, Akira Kimura, a renowned scientist, who has reached near deification, after she saved the world forty years ago. Would he offer his services again, and moonlight as security for her, which he has done in the past? She trusts only him. She feels her life is in danger. In the past he was head of her security, which he at times provided with lethal force. She was the first to identify on her giant telescope the presence of an approaching asteroid on course to collide and annihilate the world, which she named Sessho-seki (the “Killing Rock” in Japanese). Even though she attained three PhD’s—in astronomy, astrophysics and mechanical engineering—there were those who remained skeptical of her claim. While she was feverishly working on a weapon—a type of cosmic ray that would unleash an energy force that would either destroy or knock the asteroid off its course. During this period of development her life was threatened on numerous occasions, but he kept Akira safe “by any means necessary.” When employed this weapon expended such an energy force that it left a permanent “slash” across the sky, which was called the “Ascalon Scar.”

Upon arrival to Akira’s luxurious abode at Volcano Vista, located 177 atmospheres below sea level in the world’s largest seascraper. He knows immediately something is wrong, when he is not greeted. He quickly gains entrance and discovers Akira has been locked in her AMP chamber, which has been padlocked. She has been frozen in the chamber with the introduction of nitrogen. as well as being neatly sliced into multiple pieces from head to toe. His senses foretold what he found. Although he is colorblind, he is also endowed with synesthesia, and perceives other senses that most would consider hallucinations. He can almost smell murder (the smell of ambergris) , which also floats in strands of green , while death always is accompanied by clouds of red ( both red and green are perceived differently in those that are colorblind). These afflictions have served him well, in both war and solving murders as a detective. He immediately appreciated a red cloud circling the AMP chamber and its seal oozed green.

McKinney weaves a complex and twisted path with multiple unexpected reveals as the Detective with No Name plunges into a non-sanctioned investigation of Akira’s murder. He will stop at nothing, endangering his career, marriage (on his fourth) and life. An immersive world building flows effortlessly through the pages. In his mind, he replays their history and possible motivations. Blended into this hardboiled detective fiction are a multiplicity of relevant themes: climate change, class distinctions, and humanities price to be paid for technological progress. Ultimately a disturbing cautionary tale evolves. Although this is the first volume in a trilogy, the end result is a satisfying denouement. Much like Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western trilogy, equally satisfying stories of the Detective with No Name are sure to follow.

Thanks to NetGallery and Soho Crime for supplying an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review. Anticipated publication date: July 13, 2021.

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