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Cold City (Repairman Jack: Early Years Trilogy) by F. Paul Wilson
Cover Artist: Shutterstock
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Kindle Edition  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781429948333
Date: 27 November 2012

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

What do you do when you're twenty-one, a college dropout and have no idea what to do with your life? If your name is Jack, you move to New York City and find yourself in more trouble than you could have dreamed...

In Cold City, the first of a trilogy, F. Paul Wilson begins to map out the "lost years" between his foremost hero's leaving home and his career as Repairman Jack. Consider this the "Prepaireman Jack" period of his life.

Living in a cheap efficiency and working for a lawn care company, Jack is biding his time and waiting to see what life has in store. His only real friend in the city is Abe Grossman, nephew of his former boss Mr. Rosen, who owns a remarkably uncommercial sporting goods store. When a falling out causes Jack to think about getting a gun, Abe uses his contacts to get him one--as well as training with a fellow named Dane Bertel.

Bertel has a cigarette smuggling operation, into which he brings Jack. Bertel's customer is an Egyptian he calls 'the Mummy', whose employees are embroiled in some nastiness of their own. Before long, Jack finds himself in the midst of a religious assassination and a smuggling operation that is much more dangerous than his own.

Not only that, but the junior partner of his favorite watering hole--a fellow named Julio--is both squeezed by the Mob and trying to help his sister deal with her abusive ex-boyfriend.

His life is also complicated by the arrival of Cristin Ott, a friend of his ex-girlfriend's, with whom he develops a complex relationship.

If Jack wants to live to see Cristin, he has a lot of problems to solve. On the job training was never this crazy...or dangerous.

Wilson is bringing his best-known character full circle, bridging the gap between his young adult trilogy and his long-running Repairman Jack canon. Jack is a young guy with a strong moral code, a quick wit, and an overpowering capacity for rage. He doesn't know very much yet; a lot of this story is about Jack learning not only the methods but also the philosophy and ethos of being outside the system. As Bob Dylan says, "To live outside the law, you must be honest"-- and if Jack is anything, it's honest.

This story also shows new sides to both Abe and Julio. Long time readers will enjoy seeing these parts of men they've known for decades; it's clear that both of them wear masks of their own, which many readers might never have suspected. In both cases, it is clear why they are perhaps Jack's most staunch friends.

As far as enemies go, this book provides new ones in job lots. Roman Trejador is an actuator working for the Order (which ought to be a big warning bell to Wilson's readers); he's working on an operation to produce massive chaos, all of which benefits the Order. But something has gone wrong--millions of dollars are missing--and Jack is at the bottom of it. Lucky for Jack, Trejador and his associate, Ernst Drexler, don't know his true identity. Yet.

Also in the mix are a pack of Egyptians, some of whom are seeking to make a splash with a high profile assassination, and others of whom are running a smuggling operation that will net them a fortune. Though Jack is on the periphery of the first, he's made serious problems for the second group, especially after a couple of judicious homicides. One guy he didn't kill, however, is giving them help, making life extra-difficult for Jack.

Lending him some help are the Mikulski brothers, a pair of freelance vigilantes who initially have the wrong idea about Jack but soon learn to trust the youngster.

Jack's in the middle of a very dangerous game, with the Order on one side and murderous Arabs on the other. Life's going to be very dicey, if the Dominicans who want some bloody payback don't find him first.

Wilson delivers fast-paced action and adventure in this new title, setting up major conflicts for the fledgling repairman in his early New York days. He isn't polished, doesn't have the skills and subtlety he'll later acquire--it's a lot like watching Batman's first year on the streets. He has the guts and is clever, but he finds that that only carries him so far.

This is, oddly enough, perhaps an ideal jumping-on point for prospective readers, and I don't say that lightly. This is a character who's been around for quite awhile, with many books in his wake; however, this is a look at who he is and how he becomes the guy we know from the Adversary Cycle. You could easily go further back and read the Young Jack tales (all of them well worth reading), but if you want to see Jack as a young man, growing into the legend he'll become, this is a good place to begin.

Fans of Wilson's, as always, will be delighted, and readers who want a good, solid noirish tale will be delighted as well. Wilson is a fantastic storyteller; this book may be the beginning of a swan song for the character Repairman Jack, but he's certainly going out on a high note.

Highly recommended.

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