Daniel Polansky’s Tomorrow the Killing is the second in his Low Town series. If you’ve read The Straight Razor Cure then you probably have a fair idea of what to expect: violence, foul language, grim settings, and an anti-hero who is almost but not completely beyond sympathy.
The novel is a step up from its predecessor, and Warden is this time out for something approaching justice (by his own warped standards). There’s more depth to the characters here, and a few journeys into the protagonist’s rather chequered past that, I thought, added to my understanding of his cynical worldview. There are elements of a caper or con to the story as Warden schemes to set various groups against each other, with the added dose of government security services breathing down his neck. It wasn’t an espionage novel nor a con/caper, but the combination worked to divert attention from the increasingly dark activities of the protagonist.
The novel is not without its flaws. The protagonist has few (if any) redeeming qualities, the novel is unceasingly bleak, and there are strange turns of phrase here and there throughout the book. I couldn’t tell whether these odd phrasings were intentional or not, but they were irritating and broke up the narrative several times. They read almost like the work of someone writing in a second language. The use of profanity, while no doubt required in places, felt off, as though the author decided to raise the stakes by breaking out the worst words he could fine. Unlike Joe Abercrombie’s earlier works, here it felt forced and stilted; out of place.
The novel is not for the faint of heart, but if you like your grimdark really dark and bleak, and are looking for a no-holds-barred journey into darkness, then Tomorrow the Killing might be right up your street.