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Midnight, Water City


Midnight, Water City

MIDNIGHT, WATER CITY is speculative fiction, a genre that I don’t typically read. But the central character is a flawed, beaten-down police detective who failed to keep his best (estranged) friend --- who happens to be the most revered woman on the planet --- alive. Toss in the facts that author Chris McKinney is a writer of detective fiction who has never received the credit he deserves and that Soho Crime put its imprint on this, and I couldn’t resist, even though it’s the first entry in a trilogy. Did I mention that I’m trying to stay away from trilogies too? Still, I gave this one a shot, and I’m so glad I did. MIDNIGHT, WATER CITY is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

"MIDNIGHT, WATER CITY is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.... I would have finished the book in half the time had I not spent a good deal of effort underlining [McKinney's] short observations and turns of phrase."

The novel is set in 2142. Forty years earlier, a scientist named Akira Kimura announced that she had identified an incoming asteroid that was on a devastating and deadly collision course with Earth. She devised a powerful cosmic ray, set up the payload to deliver it, and averted the catastrophe. For the last four decades, she has been celebrated as the savior of the human race. Parents name children after her. She has what we currently call A-List recognition status. There is a scar across the sky created by the cosmic ray that is silent testimony to what she did, along with societal changes --- some good, some bad.

An unnamed police detective who used to be part of Akira’s security detail responds to her request for protection. But upon his arrival, he discovers that she has been brutally killed. Naturally he is on the shortlist of suspects. As an entire world mourns Akira’s passing, her one-time friend and hapless protector risks everything that he holds dear, including his life, to solve her murder and bring her some justice. He learns far more than he wishes, not only about her but also about himself and matters far above his pay grade.

McKinney gives us a cultural and scientific tour of the 22nd century that is more from the perspective of Robert A. Heinlein than Ben Bova. He describes, if you will, the spear with emphasis on the point as opposed to the delivery system. Thus he avoids getting too bogged down in details that would lead the reader away from the story instead of through it. McKinney is also a heck of a writer. I would have finished the book in half the time had I not spent a good deal of effort underlining his short observations and turns of phrase.

And if that wasn’t enough to make you want to hunt down and read MIDNIGHT, WATER CITY at your earliest convenience, I must note that while it is the opening installment of a trilogy, it is complete in itself. In other words, McKinney won’t leave you riding on a talking choo-choo train and have you wait five years to see what happens, like some people we know. Be prepared to read and underline long into the night.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 23, 2021

Midnight, Water City
by Chris McKinney