Review by John for Tomorrow the Killing ~ by Daniel Polansky
The second in the Low Town series, this is a hard-boiled noir thriller with a touch of fantasy mixed in for good measure. A remorseless, violent and twisty story that is filled with intriguing characters.
About: The Warden, the main character, sort of rules over a squalid and drug-infested corner of Low Town. An ex-soldier and intelligence office who has fallen far from grace, he now sells (and frequently consumes) drugs. The Warden is hard, smart and extremely bitter, and he oozes cynicism.
With frequent flashbacks to the years he spent fighting for his country in a dreadful, carnage-filled war, the story starts when the Warden is summoned to the house of an old general, and finds out that the general’s daughter has run off and disappeared into Low Town. She is trying to find out why her brother was murdered several years before and who was responsible for his death. Her brother was an inspirational leader who also fought in the war; and the Warden knew him well. The Warden reluctantly agrees to help but, to no-one’s great surprise, the daughter too is brutally murdered.
This sparks a trail of revenge and destruction that envelopes both the guilty and the innocent – though it seems like in Low Town no-one is entirely innocent. Fuelled by drugs and old enmities, the Warden is pulling strings and orchestrating a lot of the violence, but inevitably things spiral way beyond his control as higher powers and politicians strive to achieve their hidden agendas.
John’s thoughts: I like the Warden – he’s a terrific character. Horrendously scarred by his troubled past, he is now a dark and dangerous man, but he hasn’t quite lost his humanity and just sometimes is driven by his sense of justice. Living in a dark and corrupt world, you can almost forgive him for some of his selfishness and outrageous actions. Here the Warden plots and schemes and has to work hard to try and stay one step ahead of an ever growing list of adversaries. He mostly succeeds but regularly ends up on the wrong side of a beating. This is not a squeaky clean hero who always gets his way. Meanwhile the Warden (or Polansky) has a great way with words and many of his acidic descriptions and banter brought a big smile to my face.
In this book he is surrounded by many other interesting characters – including the Warden’s giant one-eyed army buddy and business partner, the malevolent Old Man that runs the country’s internal security forces, the witch-woman Mazzie of the Stained Bone, and the psychopathic young vice-lord Adisu the Damned. As these people are woven into the story, the plot twists and turns and is unpredictable – always a good thing.
Compared with Polansky’s first Low Town novel (reviewed here http://www.layersofthought.net/2011/10/review-and-guest-post-low-town-by.html), Tomorrow the Killing has less magic and fantastic elements and is a somewhat more realistic tale, albeit set in an alternative world. The war that provides a main foundation for the plot has a lot of parallels with World War One, and Polansky does a great job of describing its horrors. You now understand a lot more about what has shaped the Warden and made him what he is. Personally I like the more realistic orientation of this story and prefer it to his first novel.
If you haven’t read the first Polansky novel and are worried about reading this in case it doesn’t make sense – don’t! This is a complete story and stands on its own two feet. I’d rate this four stars and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes noir, crime thrillers or earthy urban tales. If you enjoyed reading Low Town, this is a “must read”.
Tomorrow the Killing ~ by Daniel Polansky ; Hodder; UK publication is 11th October 2012; 368 pages.
Also included in the link for John’s review link for Low Town (or The Straight Razor Cure – UK title) is a guest post from the author which highlights his clever and direct writing style.