If you missed Third Rail, don't feel too bad; not many people realized at first what a gem it was. The buzz built very slowly. And you have time to still pick up a hardcover copy, which I definitely recommend. It's a twisty, semi-noir, Boston-drenched tale of Detective Eddy Harkness, who at the book's opening has lost his premier position among the big-city drug police, banished to emptying parking meters in his fractured but still very "historic" hometown of Nagog. Eddy's issues with substance abuse and bad choices in "dating" have really messed up his life, and for most of the book, it's anybody's guess how he'll end up.
So in a sense, if you go directly into DARK HORSE, you've already spoiled some of the suspense of the first book, because you know Eddy's lived to tell the tale, and is working back in Boston. But it's OK -- go ahead and read DARK HORSE now, and then catch up with the earlier book. The flavors of the pair are so different that you'll still be surprised at almost every situation Eddy falls (or climbs) into.
At any rate, as DARK HORSE opens, Eddy -- more often called Harkness, by himself as the point-of-view character and by many of the cops and criminals in his life -- is making a real difference in Boston, working in the Narco-Intel team of the Boston Police Department with a pair of, hmm, let's say eccentric partners. He lives with Candace and her little daughter May, and he stays out of trouble. Mostly. In fact, an unpredicted hurricane's just swamped the Lower South End of Boston and the extra push that Harkness gives to doing his job turns him into an instant hero for one of the rescues he manages. The trouble is, he's a good enough cop (with trained nose for drug traffic) that he realizes he's stumbled across the influence of a rash of drug marketing in a single region of the city -- with a really strange form of heroin called Dark Horse, where the packets even include nifty labeling that includes the horse image.
Tracking the unusual pattern of the drug's spread, as well as its puzzling composition, takes Harkness into a confrontation with a secretive cabal that's manipulating real estate in the wake of the storm. At the same time, a bunch of displaced residents from the Lower South End are invading Eddy Harkness's home town of Nagog and the situation smells of advance planning and coordination. Plus an old colleague from the town phones him with bad news:
"Eddy, it's me." It's the voice of Captain Watt out at Nagog police headquarters. "Got a big problem out here."If you're a Boston fan, you'll get extra enjoyment from DARK HORSE, because you'll know the streets, the significant buildings, the feel of that downtown rush of energy contrasted with the leafy suburbs that think they're better off somehow. And if you don't know Boston at all, the version of it that Eddy Harkness knows -- from his "bad-boy" past, to his passion for unraveling criminality, to his dream of living peacefully (even as a cop) with Candace and May -- is so convincing, you'll probably feel at home when you finally visit "Beantown."
"What's going on?"
"Got a pissed-off guy cuffed and screaming in the back of my squad car."
"What'd he do?"
"Attempted B and E."
"Sound like you got your man. What's the problem?"
"It's your brother, Eddy. It's George."
Buckle up for a fast ride through complications, fistfights, a few (not too gory) murders, and an inside look at urban power brokers versus Occupy-type activists. It's the world of Eddy Harkness. And it's a great, great read.