Before I review G.M Fordís latest thriller, Nameless Night, please pardon the primal scream issuing from deep in my lungs regarding the fact that this ISNíT A FRANK CORSO BOOK!!!! In other words, the riveting cliffhanger in Blown Away is actually something quite different. Iíve hated the way Ford has now ended both series (the Leo Waterman books ended on a major change for the character, but at least it didnít leave the character for dead). So perhaps this feeling affected my thoughts on Nameless Night? Sadly, no. The problems with this book have nothing to do with any of that. Itís still good, and told in that wonderful Ford style, but itís sadly lacking in a few places.
Paul Hardy, discovered seven years ago lying near death in a railroad car, has been living with no memory at Harmony House, a Washington state-run care center in Seattle for those unable to take care of themselves due to mental issues. He canít remember anything about his past life. However, a horrific car accident results in major injuries that are taken care of by the best plastic surgeon the driver of the car can buy. The accident also causes flashes of his memory to come back, slowly. The innocent act of Googling a name brings federal agents down on the house, and Paul has to leave in a quest to find out what happened to him, and what his fragmented memories mean. The pursuit of his quest will make a few major government employees nervous, so he may not live to find out what his true self is like.
Thereís really nothing wrong with the first two-thirds of Nameless Night, barring the odd coincidence that makes you shake your head. Fordís prose is as crisp as ever; the story of Paul Hardy trying to find out why the very mention of a name brings angry Feds down on you so fast that you donít have time to take a breath is mesmerizing. I loved the relationships that Paul forged on his cross-country travel, especially with young Alma, the hairdresser from Alabama whoís going back to face her family after running out on them. Each time, Ford avoids the easy cliche (and even has Alma comment on it at one point, thanking Paul for it). The young boy, Acey, is an interesting character, too. Heís a messed up 10-year-old because of the life his mother leads, but he provides a motivation for Paul as well as a sounding board.
So whatís wrong with Nameless Night? Perhaps itís the huge infodump as Paul talks back and forth with an FBI agent late in the book, where the entire plot is explained? Both men have pieces of the puzzle, and in the course of their conversation theyíre able to piece together whoís responsible and what theyíre actually doing. Some of it we already knew as Paul discovered the information, but this conversation goes on for quite a while and really begins to drag. The book has been moving at a brisk pace up to this point, but the scene brings it to a screeching halt.
Perhaps itís the weird behavior of Kirsten Kane, a top lawyer in the Queen Anne County District Attorneyís office. She has a horrible romantic history, but sheís smart and intriguing. She becomes involved with the denizens of Harmony House when the head of it, Helen Willis, is taken into custody after the federal raid. Unfortunately, when she ends up meeting Paul, she turns into almost a caricature. Sheís still extremely competent and principled, but itís almost like she attaches herself physically to Paul upon their first meeting. And donít get me started on the ending, which I canít detail due to spoilers. Letís just say that her actions come out of left field. It almost seems shoehorned in just so there can be a happy romantic ending.
Donít get me wrong. Nameless Night is an enjoyable read, and Fordís prose will keep you turning the pages deep into the night. There are things I loved about the book, such as Fordís seeming impatience with everything federal and his willingness to cast aspersions on both sides. The climate of the book has heavy ďWar on TerrorĒ overtones, extremely critical of the present climate. On the other hand, he heavily implies that the current president in the book is a *Democrat* and that heís still part of the problem. This all does present a timing problem when the extent of the plot is actually revealed, though. One of the reasons given for the conspiracy is redirecting appropriations ďfor the war,Ē yet the incident in question actually took place in 1999. We werenít exactly at war then. Fordís also not afraid to turn the Hero in the Resistance Against the Feds into a publicity-seeking bastard, which I also appreciated.
Nameless Night is a gripping read, though. Anybody who has enjoyed Fordís books in the past will probably love it, even if they have the same problems with it that I do. Itís also a good entry into Fordís writing for the uninitiated since itís a standalone (and I canít see any way there would be a sequel, though I suppose he could surprise me). Just keep in mind that Ford usually has a better grasp of his characters so that the Kirsten problem in this book doesnít exist in the others. Hereís hoping that weíll get Frank Corsoís story finished in Fordís next book. But whatever happens, this book isnít bad enough to cure my Ford addiction. Iíll be back, no matter what Ford decides to give us.