A bleak little fable about personal responsibility, set in an apparently post-apocalyptic, nameless American city.
Sixteen years ago, millions of people died from a mysterious illness. Not long afterward, the fog drifted in and never left, blanketing the city and cutting it off from the rest of a presumably equally devastated world. Stumbling through the streets is private detective Thomas Vale, drowning his despair in booze and pills, waking every night at 3 a.m. and not knowing why. But when he concludes an investigation of a warehouse theft and accepts a new, dubious-seeming assignment from a gorgeous blonde, he learns the truth about both the illness and the fog. John does a marvelous job of painting the physical and emotional landscape of a corrupt, eternally obscured city, where hope has almost drained away and people cling desperately to (but are deeply wounded by) their mementoes of a brighter, happier world. Unfortunately, once the Big Conspiracy is revealed, the novel shifts from an introspective noir to a still thoughtful but somewhat clichéd thriller where the perennially underestimated hero runs around trying to expose the plot and save his woman before he’s killed. (Really, it’s ridiculous: Vale amply demonstrates that he’s vicious when he’s cornered, and his enemies never take sufficient precautions.) Worse still, Rebecca, the femme fatale turned love interest, is sadly two-dimensional; she’s a beautiful victim who primarily seems to be there to give Vale some focus. Vale’s relationship with Heller, a young man who owes him money, is far more poignantly and complexly real. John does get props, though, for not forcing an inappropriately happy ending.
A promising, if not entirely satisfying, debut.