Detective John Finch gets assigned to an impossible murder case, one of the victims being a man thought dead for a hundred years. Finch's case takes him all over Ambergris and up against a crime lord, his Gray Cap superiors, The Partials, and makes him question everything he believes. Can Finch solve the case before he becomes another victim?
After City of Saints and Madmen, I was leaning toward passing on the rest of VanderMeer's work and dismissing him as a pretentious bastard. Shriek, the second book, changed my mind and brought me around. This one, damn!
is about all I can say.
Finch is a new weird detective story set in Ambergris, VanderMeer's city of choice. After the events of Shriek, the fungal alien Gray Caps have risen up and taken over the city. Partials, humans entered into unholy pacts with the Gray Caps, serve as a spy ring, keeping the populace under control with the aid of their fungal "enhancements." Finch is a cop working under the Gray Caps. Paranoia and distrust permeates every page. Finch reminds me a lot of Dekkard from Blade Runner/Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, cynical, bitter, and just doing his job.
While Finch is a good character, I think it's the supporting characters that carry the story. Wyte, Finch's fungus-infected partner, The Partial that keeps messing with him, Heretic, Finch's Gray Cap boss, Sintra, Rathven, the list just keeps going.
I'm trying not to give too much away but it's hard. There are so many things I want to mention, like the living fungal guns and the memory bulbs, mushrooms that grow on corpses that give the person who eats them a glimpse at the memories of the person they grow on. Finch's case is bizarre and manages to answer many of the questions posed by the previous two volumes. The paranoid feel reminds me of Blade Runner at times and the plot-oriented episodes of the X-Files in others. VanderMeer uses a noir style reminding me of Richard Stark at some points and James Ellroy in others. It's one hell of a ride.
VanderMeer hit the ball out of the park with this one. All of the plot threads and hints about the Gray Caps in the first two Ambergris books come to a head in this one, the best Ambergris book yet. If I read a better book than this one in 2010, I'll be surprised.