Thursday, 7 February 2019
JEFF JOHNSON - THE ANIMALS AFTER MIDNIGHT (2019)
In this third novel in the Darby Holland Crime Novel series, Darby's past rises up to do more than haunt him. You can run, but in the information age you can only hide for so long. Midnight Rider Productions is a dark web nightmare machine, headed by the one man who years ago drove Darby to hide in the seamy environs of Old Town and make his life there. But Darby left his own mark back in the day and the shadowy head of production has a grudge to settle. Rider has found him at long last and plans to make an example of him. Every dark secret of Darby’s is exposed, every triumph reversed, every dream made real is set on fire, and as the Feds circle, smelling blood in the water, Darby has to run the most brutal rearguard action in the history of crime-meets-crime and gamble that he has finally grown powerful enough, crazy enough, and hard enough to beat the Devil himself. Meanwhile his best friend and should-be lover Delia, is about to be married to someone with his own dark secrets. With the help of his friends new and old, Darby must save Delia and himself and the rest of the Lucky Supreme faithful as he plays one force against another with desperate brilliance in an epic conflict that rages through the dark underbelly of Portland, Oregon.
An entertaining visit to Portland's dark side in the company of Jeff Johnson's series character Darby Holland. The Animals After Midnight is the third novel in the Holland series, and in truth, personally I would probably have benefited from reading the others first. (My bad.) That said I really liked this one.
Darby Holland is a criminal, though for large portions of the book, he actually seems to do very little that is illegal. Someone is pursuing him and making life difficult for him. So much so that the local FBI agents have temporarily put any thoughts of snaring Holland on hold and have unofficially teamed up with him to capture a bigger fish, Holland's pursuer.
We do get the story behind the story, as the whys and wherefores of Holland's predicament are revealed to us and we understand the shared history between Darby and Rider the man who's out to get him. Rider is tracking and recording Holland's every move. He's making a film of Holland's intended demise, a snuff movie on the go, as bit by bit he picks apart Holland's shaky foundations.
In respect of getting the reasons behind Rider's hard-on for Darby, the book works well enough on its own. Maybe its my OCD talking when I state a preference for series reading in order and wanting to know as much as I can about a character's past before I join him in his present.
A lot of our story, concerns love and friendship. During the course of the book, we get to know Darby and his circle of friends. His on/off on/off romance with Suzanne is temporarily off. She's moved away to Seattle (I think) though plans are afoot to meet up and rekindle things. He does spend a lot of time contemplating a future with her, though you sense that she doesn't love him as he is and wants to enforce changes in his outlook and personality. She wants a new and improved model of Darby rather than the current version available. Darby himself frets about Delia his close friend. She's hooked up with a musician and contemplating their forthcoming marriage. Its not a great idea. Our scuzzball musician sleeps around and plays fast and loose with Delia's money. Darby has the age old dilemna of trying to support his friend without being the party pooper. Can he nix the wedding without Delia getting wise to him and hating him as a consequence. I think the truth is obvious - Delia and Darby are the best suited couple in town.
Bars, dark alleyways, drinking to oblivion, favours for friends, favours from friends, mentoring, a pet burial, a hornet's nest (literally), a confrontation with a proxy, an investigation, a bit of bribery, an uneasy alliance with the Feds, domestic woes, suit shopping for a wedding, hidden cameras and surveillance, late night subterfuge, paranoia, a black history, a tattoo parlour, food, death, train tracks, counter-surveillance, an illicit lock-up, arson and violent confrontation. Lots more besides.
I really enjoyed the characters in this one, as well as the story line. It meanders a bit getting to the confrontation and climax, but that was one of the many positives in the book, with an intriguing main character, dealing with the day to day minutiae of life, all the while knowing that there's a target on his back.
I liked the Portland setting, which I think was a first for me and as a Billy bonus, Johnson wraps everything up in 227 pages.
One of the benchmarks for me when reading a book is considering whether I'd want to read more from the author in the future. In this case - yes. I'm looking forward to reading about the younger Darby Holland in the two earlier books in the series - Lucky Supreme and A Long Crazy Burn.
4 from 5
Read in January, 2019
Published - 2019
Page count - 227
Source - Edelweiss Above the Treeline early reviewer site
Format - ePub read on laptop