Cregan, Sean - 'The Razor Gate'
THE RAZOR GATE is the second novel by Sean Cregan (pen name for author John Rickards) set in the US, in the fictional dystopian East Coast town of Newport. This is futurist noir writing; Newport has particularly stark divisions between the haves and the have-nots, the wealthy live in a world of gleaming office blocks and fancy modernistic restaurants, and the poor are exiled to the Levels or to the Port, a cramped marine shanty-town, lacking proper medical care. The city is dominated by the Foundation, an oligarchy, who control the city, including its police force.
An unusual serial killer is attacking the citizens of Newport – he abducts strangers, and returns them, dazed, with a note of their projected date of death having implanted a time bomb device into their bodies which will kill them 12 months later. These victims, known as the Clocks, have been sworn to secrecy by the authorities, and are only allowed to discuss their plight (known as the Curse) with other Clocks at support groups run by the police. The Foundation members insist on a media cover-up and control of the police investigation, which is progressing slowly. Not all of the Clocks are satisfied with this state of affairs, and a Clock resistance movement is set up, culminating in a suicidal Clock setting off a bomb on Green Street, a street in the commercial district full of glitzy office blocks. A thief takes advantage of the confusion following the bombing to steal the suitcase carried by Dominic, a victim of the bombing, who worked for one of the foundation members, Amanda Kent, and had some involvement in investigating the Curse.
Two people want to investigate the Green Street bombing and missing suitcase further, as they have a personal interest in digging further into the truth behind the Curse and bombing. These two people are the main protagonists: the first is Maya Casartelli, a disgraced journalist, sacked from her newspaper after trying to take on corruption in the Newport police department, who was a friend and former girlfriend of Dominic, and the second is Charlie Garrett, a policeman demoted to patrol, who is desperate to find a cure for the Curse, as he is in love with a Clock, Emi, due to die in the next few weeks. The book moves back and forth in time between events in the run-up to the Green Street bombing, and Maya/Garrett's investigation, and between the perspectives of Maya, Garrett and the Clocks. As their worlds collide, Maya and Garrett find they are involved in a dangerous race against time as they navigate the highs and lows of Newport society to track down the suitcase, and investigate rumours of the Razor Gate said to be the key to these deaths.
THE RAZOR GATE is a well-written, suspense novel with a great premise and fictional world. The split timeline and split points of view are handled very deftly by Cregan. The characters are sympathetically drawn, with plenty of backstory left to the imagination (or possibly future novels in the series). The locations were excellently depicted, in particular the dockside marine world of the Port, and the residents' living conditions and difficulties accessing employment and proper medical care. My only quibble was the pace, I found this uneven at times, either slow or punctuated by action set pieces and a high body count. THE RAZOR GATE is an intriguing book, and looks to be part of a promising series.
Laura Root, England