McCluskey’s debut novel, the first in a projected trilogy, presents a mystery involving a shady secret society.
The novel begins with a brief prologue which introduces the mystical society of Watchers, a sect which has wielded mysterious powers since the dawn of time, then abruptly switches gears, transforming into a gritty police procedural. Two cops, Eric McCarthy and “Stosh” Alverson, investigate a series of murders in the rough neighborhoods of Springfield, Mass. The cops quickly figure out that the killings are too precise to be the work of local gangs and determine that a sniper is meticulously eliminating Springfield’s dealers, pimps and pushers. As it turns out, the sniper, an Iraq war vet named Desmond, is murdering these criminals as part of a master plan orchestrated by the Admiral, the Watchers’ leader. The first half of the book is by far the best, as the author depicts the urban scenes and the loneliness of the two officers’ lives with a power and poignancy that keep the outlandish premise in check. But halfway through the novel, this delicate equilibrium tips, as a mysterious consortium backed by the Watchers moves into town with plans to buy all of Springfield’s abandoned businesses and houses and rebuild the city on a massive scale. The second half of the book also features a major subplot involving McCarthy’s ex-girlfriend, a stripper named Mae, and her involvement with a sleazy lawyer planning to run for mayor. However, the book ends with almost none of its plot threads resolved. Unlike many trilogies, which tell a self-contained story in each volume and expand it in later installments, this book introduces many characters and plotlines and then simply stops.
Although the novel’s first half shows potential, its unfinished story may leave readers wanting.