Thursday, August 05, 2010

Book: The Cold Kiss, by John Rector (2010)

Noir has been described to me thus: the main character knows what he or she is about to do is wrong and does it anyway. The debut novel from John Rector certainly fits that bill. Then there’s the other stripe of noir, where it’s the universe that goes bad, using some poor fool for its sport. Think of it as the Detour variety, the lesson being that “fate, or some mysterious force, can put the finger on you or me for no good reason at all.” The Cold Kiss is that kind of noir, too. In spades.

Nate and Sara are young lovers heading west, away from harsh childhoods and ahead of a ferocious blizzard. They give a lift to a man clearly in need of one. When the storm forces them off the road and into a forgotten Nebraska motel with a handful of other refugees, they discover that their passenger has died – and that he had two million dollars cash in his possession. Nate and Sara decide to keep it. And the snowball begins its downhill descent.

The novel moves with the inexorable logic of a bad dream. Ask yourself at any point “What is the absolute worst thing that could happen now?” and sure enough, that’s what happens. Rector relays it all without wasting a word yet still finds rich veins of deadpan humor. Reading it I was reminded of Scott Smith’s A Simple Plan, along with the corkscrew plot mechanics of Red Rock West. The Cold Kiss will put a chill into your summer reading in more ways than one.