Cold City is the first in the Repairman Jack prequel series following the end of his regular series. F.Paul Wilson has said that he will do this trilogy and then that's it for Jack. We'll see if that happens. This is actually an interesting book, seeing Jack when he's still learning the ropes. Unfortunately, it feels like a first book in a series, with the pluses and minuses that usually entails.
It's 1990, and a man named Jack (we never will find out his last name, I don't believe) has dropped out of college and headed to New York to make his way. Strange things have been happening to him, dark urges that he must fight before they overwhelm him. He's gone off the grid, living on cash and the odd jobs that will pay him that, which almost necessitates some jobs that are a bit on the shady side. After he suffers one dark attack and almost kills a co-worker who has been bullying him, he's not sure what to do. Getting hired as a driver to smuggle cigarettes is quite lucrative and will definitely keep him able to live well—and buy the weaponry he might need for the days ahead. Especially when he encounters a preteen smuggling ring, some jihadists, and the mob trying to deal with his good friend, the bartender Julio. With all of that, he may be wishing for a monster from the dawn of time to deal with.
After having gotten to know Jack over the long course of the original series, it's interesting to see the basis for that personality we've grown to love. In 1990, he's very green, making mistakes and learning the lesson that sometimes you have to be ruthless to make sure things don't come back to bite you. He's already living off of the grid but hasn't quite been able to put his past behind him.
Wilson still has that flair for mixing his creations with real-world events. Jack gets mixed up in the murder of the rabbi Meir Kahane; the jihadists who carried it out are now fleshed out to be part of the Adversary's group (though they don't know it). I have a feeling Wilson will be working toward the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 before the series is out.
Wilson's characerization is top-notch, delivering the Jack we're all familiar with but who is yet still different because he's new at all of this. Abe is the same lovable curmudgeon that he's always been, and we see how he becomes Jack's supplier for pretty much anything he needs: weaponry, a skilled person to do a job, whatever. The villains also get that treatment, as they usually do in a Wilson novel, getting fleshed out into three dimensions.
Wilson ties it all together in a wonderful web of intrigue, with things coming together in different ways. The only real fault in the book—and it's not so much a fault as a minor annoyance based on how Wilson's previous books have gone—is that nothing is resolved despite coming together. This is clearly the first book in a trilogy, and unlike previous books (with the exception of the end of the original Repairman Jack cycle, where things ramped up to the conclusion), this one doesn't have an ending with threads that will continue into the next book.
Cold City flat-out doesn't have a climax. Instead, it pauses as everybody regroups, and there's a nice discussion between Abe and Jack about fate, butterflies, and God. I loved the conversation but wish there had been a bit of resolution to something. Even as the first in a trilogy, it feels very incomplete.
That being said, Cold City is a great novel, even better for those Jack fans who've been pining since the end of his modern-day series. You can understand things with no problem if you're new to the Jack-verse, but fans of the books will get so much more out of it.
Either way, give this one a read.