Fans of future noir recognize the world of their genre as a deadly and caustic mix of technology and whiskey-soaked nightmares that are just plausible enough to be real. And the reality created by these works are often intense, terrifying—and just plain fun.
Such is the case with Saint Underground by Adam Dunn, the third in the series of novels set in a dystopian vision of New York City during “the Second Great Depression.” In the first two novels, Dunn traced the death-spiral of the Greatest City in the World by following New York City detectives Sixto Santiago and Everett More through the murder and mayhem taking place on the streets and in the halls of government and high finance. In Saint Underground, Dunn ups the ante, and the battle is for nothing less than direct control of the city itself.
In Saint Underground, the Democrats and the Republicans have both chosen New York City as the locale for their presidential conventions. The battle for political command, however, promises to turn lethal with one party holding the reins of control from City Hall to Albany to Washington—and the other party employing a nefarious former Special Forces operative with death in his crosshairs. This mercenary, codenamed ODIN, pushes More and Santiago to their limits in a battle that rages far beyond anything the NYPD is prepared for, all the way up to an explosive climax that threatens to leave the city, the state and the nation permanently scarred.
Dunn’s strength as a storyteller is his mastery in weaving multiple threads of intrigue into one seamless work. Saint Underground isn’t just a work of future noir—it’s a political thriller, it’s a cop drama, it’s a techno-military tale, it’s a story that takes us through a complex and corrupt financial system—and it turns each into an exhilarating roller-coaster ride through a dark and twisted tunnel. Dunn adroitly juggles an epic cast of shadowy characters in a tale in which good and evil are, as is the case in any fine noir tale, always relative. We know whom to root for, and we know why, but we know the best we’ll wind up with in the end is the least of multiple evils that we can live with.
Those of us who have experienced New York City from the porn-house-infested urban blight of the 1970s to the Disney-fied Times Square metropolis of the 1990s to the post-9/11 burg of today will recognize aspects of the Big Apple in Saint Underground to make the novel plausible enough to shake us to our core. And in the end, that’s the book’s magic ingredient. In Saint Underground, Dunn has created a New York City that’s alien enough to be fiction, yet credible enough to allow the novel to pack a wallop as a cautionary tale about the dangers of power and greed run amok. Relish in the delectably dark intrigue of the novel, but after you put it down, say a prayer for the future of the country.