The Night Market by Jonathan Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free advance copy from the publisher for review.
Here’s a New Year’s resolution you will actually enjoy. Pick up a copy of this in January of 2018 when it releases and read it as quickly as possible. I promise you that it’ll be a lot more fun than a diet.
In the near future San Francisco is a city where most neighborhoods are so desperately poor that people scavenge wiring and bricks from crumbling buildings to sell for a little cash yet the upscale retail area can wrap a swanky hotel in silk as part of an elaborate launch event for a new perfume. Inspector Ross Carver and his partner Jenner have been doing their best to maintain order, but things seem to get worse by the day.
Carver and Jenner get called to a house where patrol officers have found a body, and the two detectives walk into a horrific sight. Before they can begin to process the scene some federal agents show up claiming jurisdiction and rush the cops through a decontamination process that finishes with the men being drugged.
Carver wakes up in his apartment days later with no memory of what happened to find a mysterious and beautiful neighbor lady taking care of him. Supposedly he’s been down with a bad case of the flu, but he quickly finds clues that make him determined to figure out what really happened. As he begins to unravel the conspiracy behind everything Carver will be shocked to his core at what he learns.
I was hooked from the opening scenes of this, but during the first part I thought that Jonathan Moore had made an error by telling us what happened to Carver and Jenner. It seemed like starting with Carver waking up and piecing together the night they found the body would have been a better way to do it, but when other revelations are made all my reservations went right out the window. Moore knew exactly what he was doing with every step in this novel, and letting us in on one mystery from the jump makes a reader feel fully in the know which makes the twists later that much better when we realize we were as clueless as Carver all along.
Technically this is the conclusion to a trilogy, but it’s not your traditional three-part story. The books are part of a shared universe in San Francisco with some previous events referenced and one supporting player showing up in all of them yet each have different main characters. All could be shelved in the crime/mystery section, but they’re in distinctly different sub-genres. The Poison Artist is a psychological suspense novel, The Dark Room is pretty much a police procedural whodunit, and then The Night Market shifts to a future setting and is a sci-fi conspiracy thriller.
The most common factor is the atmosphere that Moore creates with his vivid writing. There’s a touch of the surreal to each in which characters seem to be almost drifting through a dreamscape at times. Yet there’s also a reality to it all that keeps a sense of tension and momentum and also give you firm footing even when things get weird. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk, and Moore does it with style that make these books a successful fusion of literature with genre fiction. With the shift to a future version of San Francisco he creates a dystopian vibe that reminded me of Blade Runner while still being original and unique.
There’s no shortage of grim versions of the future and on the surface this has some of the tropes of any sci-fi conspiracy story, but one of my favorite things was all the secret at the heart of this. I’m not even going to discuss it under a spoiler tag because it’s just too good to risk ruining so I’ll just say that I thought it was clever in its originality and terrifying in its implications as well seeming all too plausible.
Barring any unforeseen dark horse candidates popping up in the next two months this is going to be my best book of 2017.
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