Volume 92, Issue 82

Thursday, March 4, 1999


NOJO sands jazz grain

Grip Inc. solidifies its hold on heavy metal

Creativity qualms are unoriginal

Indie band tests shallow waters

Night Train misses intrigue station

Night Train misses intrigue station

Martin Amis
Vintage Canada
$16.95/175 pgs.

The world of detective novels has come a long way since the days of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes.

Martin Amis, a rookie to this scene, attempts to take the genre a little further with his first mystery novel, Night Train. Unfortunately for Amis, this book's lacklustre plot simply reveals him to be the rookie he is.

Night Train does not falter because of a lack of trying on Amis' part. His character construction is amazing, especially when it comes to the novel's narrator, Detective Mike Hoolihan – a woman. Amis gives complete access to Hoolihan's life and the case which continues to trouble her. The case, which Hoolihan recounts for the reader years after it happened, seems to be a run-of-the-mill suicide, something Hoolihan has seen often in her years in homicide.

Unfortunately, this case is more troubling, not just because of the strange circumstances surrounding the case, but also because the victim, Jennifer Rockwell, is none other than the daughter of Hoolihan's commanding officer.

The victim represents everything Hoolihan herself never had – beauty, a loving family, a good job and a stable life. The pieces of this puzzle do not seem to fit together.

In examining the case through Hoolihan's eyes, Amis gives some insight into police procedure. He takes us along for the ride as Hoolihan searches out possible suspects in an attempt to turn this apparent suicide into a murder. Unfortunately for Amis, as he further develops the plot he seems to forget where he was coming from and where he is attempting to go. The suspense is not really suspenseful. The intrigue is not that intriguing.

In the end, Night Train comes off as nothing more than a patchwork attempt by Amis to combine the best aspects of older detective stories while leaving out their inconsistencies. Like a young child, he simply puts all the wrong pieces together. Martin Amis' Night Train is one little engine that couldn't.


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Copyright The Gazette 1999