Tomorrow, the Killing, a Lowtown novel by Polansky Rothdas book review RSS
3.0 Stars

A middling and uneven continuation of the Lowtown mystery novels. I solidly enjoyed the first Lowtown novel, but this second one felt more rushed. It was less whimsical and more derivative, and had fewer interesting things going on. Some of the problems: I'm not very good at mystering, but I guessed the killer at about 20% of the way through the novel. It's a bit like DMing, when the players know you and they know tropes and they know the characters you have introduced so far, and so at the 30 minute mark they can jump straight to the conclusion without any of the intervening fluff that was supposed to take up the remaining 4 hours. I appreciated how in the previous novel I could piece together the logic of the plot at 80%-90% of the way through the story, but 20% is far too early. The novel also had motivational issues (e.g. most of the plot is because the main character is so disgusted at his life that he is subconsciously trying to get himself and the people around him killed, which is ok but becomes a bit too edgy at times), and believability issues (e.g. the Lies Locke Lamora/House of Cards problem where the plots and lies seem *very* thin, and don't seem as though they should work for any reason except for authorial fiat). Oh, there's also like a lot of violence against women. A final and very personal problem; the author wants to capture the feel of the Inter-War period, that post WWI experience of disillusionment and unemployed vets and pension riots and such. That's fine, it is a great atmosphere. Less fine is that A) nearly every other chapter is a flashback to the war itself, and B) the author also wanted the war experience to match that of WWI, e.g. trenches and mud and no man's land and grinding attritional warfare. But that sort of combat makes no sense with the technology he presents, e.g. there are no machine guns or guns at all, there is no barbed wire, there is no population explosion or industrial explosion which greatly increased the amount of force trying to channel itself through a limited geographical space. Or to put it another way, if you are primarily murdering each other with swords and arrows, it does you very little good to dig a trench and then stay at the bottom of it. So you have chapter after chapter set in the war period, but none of the tactics made any sense, and it *deeply* bothered the part of me that is a (minor, minor) WWI buff.

Anyway, those are the complaints. On the plus side, the novel is not overly long, and it reads very breezily even at the worst of times. The characters are distinct and interesting, e.g. every mook or minor person has at least one neat character trait. The dialog and descriptions manage to be clever at regular intervals, and despite hypothesizing the killer early on, there are a couple of plot twists that I did not see coming and which were enjoyable and earned. Oh! And I liked the time skip between the two books, and how the various characters aged. That was nice. So this is not a bad or incompetent novel, it just didn't rise to the level that I've come to expect from Polansky.