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Dark City (Repairman Jack: Early Years Trilogy) by F. Paul Wilson
Cover Artist: iStockphoto
Review by Drew Bittner
Tor Books Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765330154
Date: 15 October 2013 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

It's 1992 and 22-year old Jack is putting his life together in New York. But there are a lot of problems for this fledgling repairman...and a lot of enemies gunning for him too.

In Dark City, F. Paul Wilson continues The Early Years Trilogy, exploring the time between Jack's teen adventures and The Tomb. He's learning, slowly but surely, and figuring out what he wants to do with his life, even as diverse threats manifest.

His most immediate threat is Rico, a landscaper he inadvertently crippled, who now seeks revenge with help from a Dominican street gang. Narrowly avoiding a pursuit, by means of creatively taking the subway, Jack is pushed to find a new home and to consider how he'll handle this danger...and meets a new ally as a result.

At the same time, Ernst Drexler (a name that Repairman Jack fans will recognize immediately) and fellow actuator Roman Trejador conspire with Nasser al-Thani to trigger Islamic terrorism inside the U.S. Their goal is to foment widespread chaos, which serves their needs perfectly. However, they also want to recover the three million dollars stolen from them when a previous deal was broken up by the vigilante Mikulski brothers and Jack. So they contemplate setting a trap.

Jack finds he cannot keep out of trouble when a paranoid Palestinian named Kadir Allawi thinks Jack is spying on him. A timely intervention saves his life, only to leave Jack with a lot of questions about a friend and former employer. Even so, Kadir is involved with some bad folks and is eager to bring jihad to America, in service to his preacher, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.

To top things off, Jack's favorite bar, The Spot, is about to be sold to bartender Julio's worst enemy: his former brother-in-law Neil Zalesky, conman and grifter. Julio is also paying off his former boss's debt to the Mob--by way of Vincent "Donuts" Donato--leaving the bar in some financial trouble.

Jack's got a lot of monkeys on his back this time. In true Repairman Jack fashion, however, he's got a plan to pit his enemies against each other. It'll take some agility and some cunning, but this fix might solve a lot of problems. If he can pull it off.

Wilson weaves together a large number of plot threads with dazzling skill in this volume, perfecting narrative techniques he explored in earlier Repairman Jack novels. Though Jack is front and center for most of the book, it's a large cast and a complicated, surprisingly interconnected web of stories to manage. There are connections between one of Jack's previous adventures--including a startling spur-of-the-moment choice he made the year before, which now yields unexpected benefits--and between the bad guys. Drexler and Trejador are working to help Kadir's efforts, while Zalesky's arc ends up helping Vinny Donuts with a professional problem.

And there's also a cameo appearance (or two) by a lady walking a dog. Surely that's a coincidence.

Jack is in full-on student mode in this book, as in the earlier novel, learning skills he'll need and finding what he wants to do with his life. Challenged by a friend, who asks if he doesn't feel a need to be part of something bigger, he starts to wonder what that would mean. Is he only out for himself or do some people need his help?

The story is not nonstop gunfights and chases, however. Jack is allowed to enjoy some downtime with his mentor and gunsmith Abe and his not-girlfriend Cristin, whose story picks up a few intriguing angles in this installment. It would be exhausting if Jack had no time to catch his breath, but Wilson gives the readers a satisfying mix of high-octane action broken up by more restful interludes.

And what action it is. Wilson stages some wonderfully cinematic set pieces in this book, such as Jack's flight through (and on top of) a hurtling subway car, a clever subterfuge in slipping through what looks like a flawless trap, and a bait-and-switch that leaves one enemy sleeping with the fishes. Jack is up against serious, dangerous opposition, escalating the level of danger (and reward) as he grows into the man he's fated to become. It's a great journey and readers will enjoy going along for the ride.

As the penultimate novel in the Repairman Jack story, this book delivers all the way.

Highly recommended.

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