The Dark Fields
Little Brown, £11.00
Reviewed by Mike Jecks
|This is a writer to watch
The Dark Fields isn't a crime novel in the classical form,
it's much more of a thriller, but wow, what a description of the
collapse of a character!
The book starts with Eddie Spinola bumping into his
ex-brother-in-law. One of the good things about divorce, Eddie
reckons, is the fact that he hasn't had to meet with Vernon Gant
since he split with Melissa, his wife.
Gant was a nasty sort of fellow, a drug dealer who was content to
supply anyone who had money. He doesn't appear to have changed much
in the last few years. Spinola is painfully aware how pathetic he
must appear. He hasn't moved on or up in the last ten years. He's a
copywriter for a small publisher, and he can't even finish off his
For some reason, he blurts this out to Gant over a drink, and Gant
suggests some help. He gives Eddie a drug, but not something from
the streets: this one's a wonder-pill that makes the brain fizz. It
makes people incredibly efficient, they can read information, absorb
facts and project forwards. Anyone in business will achieve
fantastic success, no matter what the job. It's Viagra for the
brain. The only trouble is, Eddie learns that there are some ominous
side effects. Blackouts, sudden loss of motor function, headaches.
And things get worse, much worse.
There are shades of various books in this. I got the feel that the
writer must have read HG Wells's The Invisible Man, and
taken on board the concept nothing brilliant comes for free. I have
to admit, though, that although I admire Wells's imagination and
stories, The Dark Fields was infinitely more gripping.
Yes, it is a first novel, and yes, the very earliest pages show
that. There's a slight feeling of lightness of characterisation, a
vagueness in the initial fifteen or so pages, but whip through them,
and suddenly you're into familiar thriller territory, but with a
spin. This is about drugs, but other things too. It takes the reader
through the machinations of big money men in New York, the seamier
side of drug dealing, the deeply unpleasant business of loan
sharking, and of course there are several murders. All set against a
backdrop of lunacy at the White House.
However as I said before, the main thing here is the impact of a
drug on a man. You can see the toll the drug is taking on his life.
First everything's up, as his career soars, his life becomes
exciting, and he starts to make a fortune in cash. And then the
spiral tops out and you witness the gradual disintegration of the
man, his career and his life. It's fascinating, and superbly
observed. Very gripping, very imaginative, quite enthralling.