by Lev AC Rosen
Review by Ernest Lilley
Regan Arts. Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 1941393071
Date: 28 April 2015 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Simone Pierce is a gumshoe in galoshes in a post-climate-change New York City that isn't so much Venice as it is Atlantis just before it slips beneath the waves. The water stopped rising at the 21st floor, and the big apple is now bobbing in the Atlantic, miles from shore.
Aside from that, Depth is a pretty straightforward clone of the Hollywood PI story. Simone is supposed to be trailing a cheating husband, but the blonde in the picture, and it's always a blonde, doesn't look like that's what she's selling. Then our gal picks up another case, babysitting a guy looking for the fabled lost tunnel beneath the waves and she has to juggle her cases to keep everything afloat. Oh, you winced at the "afloat" bit. That's nothing compared to the nautical jargon that the author has injected for slang, skipper.
As it always happens in detective stories, everybody winds up involved in the same con in one way or another, and they're all lying to you. Either that or they're lying to themselves.
Frankly, I like my noir detectives gritty and world-weary, and you'd think being a New York City PI after an apocalyptic sea level rise would provide enough water-logging to sink a Shamus' spirits. Not so. Our gal is just a standard career detective who passed on a job on the force like her dad, who got into the PI biz the traditional way, and now she takes cases from her best gal-pal, the deputy mayor. She's got an ex-boyfriend on the force, but lipstick is thicker than water if you ask me, and Simone's only real crisis comes when she can't figure out if her best friend is her friend at all. Can gals have a bro-mance? Ironically, in today's literary market, strong women, are the normalized characters. Were that not the case, I expect that his protagonists would just have been gay and been done with it.
If the characters grabbed me, nothing else would matter, but they didn't, so my attention turned to the scenery. I know it's petty of me, but the whole sea-level rise thing is just badly done. Three hundred years on, the waters have risen to the 21st floor in NYC and the entire eastern seaboard is underwater all the way to Chicago. Seriously, you have to ask if the author has been to New York (he has, he lives there). For one thing, it's not flat, and what may be the 21st floor in the Battery is somewhere in the sub-sub basement on the Upper East Side. Not to mention the Palisades. Or what tides would do to all the lobbies that our gal wades her way through.
If he'd bothered to check the map he could have come up with a much more interesting landscape.(1) If he wants to go back to this waterlogged world again, and there's no reason he shouldn't, I recommend he read Paolo Bacigalupi's The Windup Girl or The Drowned Cities to see how it's done.
I expect this book will find a fairly receptive audience, and that's fine, but I wanted a lot more from this book and it never wound up delivering. The writing is fairly good, but I never really connected with the main character. Like any noir PI tale, the plot is twisty and the bad guys are always closer to you than you'd like. Really, all it needs is a little more depth.
Links / References
(1) 21 stories is about 250 ft, or 75 m. You can get an idea of what that means at: Geology.com: New York City, Long Island and Newark – Sea Level Rise Map; http://geology.com/sea-level-rise/new-york.shtml.