Thursday, January 25, 2018

Edgy San Francisco Mystery, Dystopian, from Jonathan Moore: THE NIGHT MARKET


I really liked Jonathan Moore's mystery from last year, The Dark Room. And I figured I'd enjoy the 2018 book, which was already scheduled at that time. But I had no idea what was in store -- THE NIGHT MARKET knocked me breathless.

Fiercely plotted with twists and blade-sharp revelations, wrapped around homicide detective Ross Carver in a San Francisco of the hauntingly near future, THE NIGHT MARKET takes "techno-thriller" to a new height of expert writing and psychological disturbance. I couldn't put it down, and I'm shaken by the suggestions on how Big Money and Big Advertising may already be twisting our culture -- and threatening our lives.

Here's how it starts: Ross Carver and his partner, as the homicide team on duty, answer a call to a home where there's a presumed murder that's just taken place. That is, there's a corpse, and blood -- and the neighbor reported sounds of a frightening disturbance. But when Carver gets into the room with the body, what he sees makes no sense ... a covering of some kind of fungus already engulfing the body. Even less does the next moment make sense, as the FBI bursts onto the scene and drags Carver and his partner out to some kind of biological decontamination rig.

We know that -- but Carver, waking up in his own apartment with a neighbor he's never met taking care of him, has to start from scratch, because his memory has been wiped, and so has his partner's. The messed-up records of where he may have been are enough to suspend him from duty. But the tiny scrap of information left for him -- a fragment from a case he and his partner were supposed to investigate -- turns out to tie him back to the dangerous experiment he seems to have stumbled into.

The trouble is, it looks like organized crime and Very Very Big Money are running a scam in San Francisco -- maybe across the country -- that Carver can't afford to discover if he wants to survive.

Here's a scrap of conversation between Carver and his mysterious neighbor, Mia, who might be on his side. Or not. At any rate, she's ahead of him on figuring out the technology behind the crime scene that he witnessed:
"I didn't know what else to do," Mia said. "I've been sitting here for weeks, waiting. Either to be killed, or for someone to pull me out. And there wasn't any other choice. I  can't do this alone. I don't even know how they got to her, so I have no idea what's safe and what isn't." ...

"Did Johnny Wong kill her?" Carver asked.

"I don't know."

"But you didn't hear that name for the first time from me. You already knew about him, didn't you?" ...

"We finally had a lead," she said. "Years in the dark, and then we thought we had a way in."

"Tell me."

"It's like what they said about J.F.K. You want to know who killed the president? List the world's best marksmen, and then find out which ones were in Dallas. Making these devices would be incredibly hard. We guessed only a few scientists in a few labs could do it."

"So you did your research, and then you made a list."
The closer Carver gets to figuring out the trap he's in, the closer he gets to a very nasty death. Or worse.

I couldn't put this one down, and I know I'll re-read it, tugging at the dangerous truths woven into the page-turning fast-paced plot. I know it took Moore a while to bring this one to publication -- he had to insert at least one other book before it -- and it was worth the wait. He sees it as the finale of a three-book painting of San Francisco: The Poison Artist, The Dark Room, The Night Market. Which of course suggests there won't be a sequel -- I wonder what he'll next bring to dark, vivid life on the pages.

From HMH, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. And do check out Moore's author webpage, here. Last but not least, should I point a finger at the character name, for mystery/suspense fans who know their classics??

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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