Spademan—the garbageman-turned–noir hit man introduced in Sternbergh’s first novel, Shovel Ready (2014)—returns to save New York from a terrorist threat.
Armed with nothing but a box cutter and the wits his mother gave him, Spademan meets the mysterious and brilliant Jonathan Lesser, who’s been spending more time than is good for him in the limnosphere, a virtual reality where he taps into people’s deepest fantasies. What he’s recently witnessed there is both startling and seemingly impossible—a murder. Spademan’s job is to track down the mystery of the victim (or “victim,” since a murder couldn’t possibly happen in an alternate reality) as well as to find Lesser, who disappeared shortly after his encounter with Spademan. A former cop and generally nasty piece of work named Joseph Boonce becomes extremely interested in both of these mysteries. Investigating the case, Spademan meets up with a nurse (named Nurse) who’s employed to monitor the conditions of those plunging into the liminal world of the limnosphere. It turns out Nurse was with the alleged victim when the murder occurred. All of this action is played out in a postmodern and corrupt world of toxicity, both literal and metaphorical. Sleazy politicians and cops are rife, and Spademan rightly trusts no one in the public sphere. Other characters return from the first novel and provide a hint of nostalgia and sweetness missing from the dark and mean streets of New York.
The machinations of all this sinister reality remain rather abstract and thus wind up having far more interest to Spademan than to the reader.