Whodunnit? Was it you? Was it him? Was it her? Was it…. Bodies are washing up in the waters surrounding San Francisco. Nothing mysterious about that, as some poor soul jumps from the Golden Gate Bridge every week, making it the most popular suicide spot in the world. But something is amiss, or added in fact, as the bodies aren’t as pure as they look. These aren’t simple innocent suicides, as a more nefarious scheme is at work here, as hotshot toxicologist Caleb Maddox discovers.
Part noir, part love letter to San Francisco, Moore writes about a city he loves, describing the beauty and the dark underbelly with a clear and extensive vision of someone who’s walked the very streets you’re reading about. He lets it rain, and he lets his protagonist wallow in the cold puddles, suffering, as the case he’s been looped into turns his mind to spaghetti.
Caleb isn’t trying to be likable. After a painful breakup, he finds himself on the cusp of full blown alcoholism as he tends to his flaws. He’s brilliantly smart and cultured, but like all good heroes he finds himself at odds with his darker side, one that wants to revel in oblivion and his new found obsession, the enigmatic and mysterious stranger, Emmeline.
I enjoyed The Poison Artist, though not as much as Moore’s previous effort Redheads. Moore gives 100% as a writer, though I felt an extra 10% would have made this a truly fantastic/horrific. Redheads had a little more sass from the characters, a little more emphasis on the gore, but that’s not what this is about. Different universe. This is a man lost in a twisted detective tale, he shouldn’t be getting involved, but he can’t help himself, nor does he think to stop when the stakes keep rising higher and higher. That’s what kept me reading. I kept asking myself, how the hell is he getting out of this, if at all?
To appreciate the atmosphere of this story, it should ideally be enjoyed on a stormy, rain swept night, beside the comfort of a roaring fire, preferably with a glass of absinthe by your side. Just make sure you’ve poured it yourself…