I’ve loved the first three Lori Anderson thrillers and this one’s no different. Scrub that. It’s totally different, except where it isn’t. The previous in the series, Deep Dirty Truth, was all about #TeamLori, and trust, and continued the cinematic backdrops that we’ve come to enjoy. But this time, Lori’s properly together with her true love, JT. They’re working as a team, an actual team, trying to frame a Mob boss in Chicago for the FBI. But whereas previous novels have taken place in the backdrop of a fun fair, or an alligator swamp, the majority of Deep Dark Night takes place in one penthouse suite during a poker session and its aftermath. I wonder whether Broadribb has thrown a bone to the film producers who really should be picking up this series, offering them a cheap-ish instalment to make. But the full-on city riot, with small-m mobs, fires, bridges, helicopter and looted TV sets put paid to that theory.
I’m glad, real glad, that we meet Lori in a different place and that we’ve had the chance to see the character develop. She’s still spontaneous and angry and sassy, and has a sense of right and wrong. She’s a brilliant protagonist and we’re all still queuing up to be part of the virtual #TeamLori. But she’s undercover this time, at a time when there are rumours of a new Mob hardman: there’s plenty of paranoia up in the penthouse and we need Lori to be clear about who she is and whom she can trust, so we can concentrate on working out who everyone else is.
Word is that everyone in the penthouse poker game has a label – a thief, a killer etc, like a kind of violent version of The Breakfast Club. An unknown greater power challenges the group to identify Herron, the new Mob guy, who is supposedly among them, or they’ll all die as the oxygen in their sealed room runs out. Weirdly, Old Mob boss, Cabressa, a vile pig of a man, takes all this at face value. No one questions why only one label can apply – you can be a bankrupt and a fraud but not both. But, of course, the impact is to heighten the sense that no one (other than Cabressa) is necessarily who they say they are. We experience a masterclass in portraying how claustrophobia and strain can lead to a deterioration of trust and an escalation of tension. We don’t need a big budget set: this is the acoustic, authentic set of Lori Anderson fighting for her life in the city of the blues.
A nice twist for #teamLori fans, to match the smart new visual identity for the series.
Thanks to Orenda Books for the review copy and to Anne Cater for the invitation to join the blog tour.