Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
What is the razor gate? Who are the clocks? Who is Sean Cregan? Sean Cregan was once John Rickards, British author of dark crime novels, but with his last novel, The Levels, and now with The Razor Gate he has transmogrified.
The Razor Gate is set in a post-industrial New England coastal city – Newport City – like Boston or New York, if a little smaller, and just as run down as, say, RoboCop’s Detroit. The newspapers will not tell you, and the police do not want to admit it, but pass through The Razor Gate and you will know death. You will have time to learn about death because your death will take place exactly a year after that passage. No one knows who will be abducted and taken to the The Razor Gate, and as no one seems to talk about it, so no one knows who else has been taken there too.
So, if anyone could fall a victim to the annualised mortality, what does the man in the street know? Only that some of the clocks, those whose life is ticking away, seem to die early, perhaps as suicides, perhaps as suicide bombers. Charlie Garrett is a cop with the NCPD, he is also a cop whose partner is a clock: she does not want to die, he does not want to lose her, yet from his position inside the force, he knows how little is being done to find the clocks or discover the cause of their condition. Mara Cassinelli is a young journalist, whose career is on the rails after wrongly naming a corrupt city politician; she has also lost her boyfriend in a suicide bombing by a clock. These are small fry, with no access to the penthouses above the decaying city blocks.
In Sean Cregan’s Newport City high-tech industry continues making large profits and looking to make more while someone else has the potential to supply them. Unfortunately, that potential source has used its skills to construct the nano-technological infection which, implanted in the clocks, will kill them. The source has also denied those skills to the corporations who would exploit them. The scene is set for a struggle; everyone is hunting; it is a jungle out there. The rewards could be life for some; they could be a life of unimaginable profits for others.
Unlike some other thrillers, although this will be a story of investigation and criminal pursuit, Sean Cregan reveals the McGuffin that is secret of the nanotechnology and the clocks, or at least its purpose. The revelation fell flat for me. Before that comes, though, comes Garrett and Cassinelli’s struggle to discover what is going on in the decaying blocks and river fronts of the city. If you like near-future noir, then The Razor Gate will take you into that darkness.