Written by Michael W Sherer — On the banks of the River Seine, a priest meets with a discredited French government agent, and hands him a document. Seconds later, the holy man is thrown over the embankment into the swirling waters, his throat cut. Meanwhile, 5000 miles away in a Seattle suburb, an elderly woman is murdered. The link between these deaths appears to be a mystery shrouded in an enigma.
Step back to the 1850s, when an encounter between a US Navy ship and a slavery vessel seems to have left a deadly legacy. Is it a fortune in buried gold or something more sinister, like a deadly virus which has survived the years to become a bio-weapon? The French hitman, Gagnon, murders a French academic, steals his identity, then flies to Canada to solve the problem. He is directed to Seattle, where his suspicions focus on a Victorian convent. The convent sits over the route of a new rail transit system. An ancient map co-ordinate puts the 1850s burial site exactly in line with this excavation. Only one person stands in Gagnon’s way, and this man is Blake Sanders.
Blake Sanders is a man whose fortunes have taken several turns for the worse. A well-paid job and a beautiful wife are now just painful memories and he ekes out a nocturnal living by delivering newspapers. Sanders has a metal hip and knee, courtesy of damage incurred in his sporting youth. He only survives through a constant intake of meds, mostly prescribed to contain the after-effects of a life trauma which is only hinted at in the narrative, but eventually revealed.
His admirable ex-wife, Molly, is a stunner who deserves a book to herself, but she stands by her man, despite his tendency to make wrong choices at every turn. When they discover that the murdered woman was on his delivery round, the Seattle Police Department are led into thinking that there is only one credible suspect: Sanders himself.
More murders take place, and with all the evidence pointing to our hero, the only way he can clear his name is to go on the run and track down the killers himself.
This is hardly an original plot device but its use is neither better or worse here than in a dozen similar thrillers. Sanders has his back more or less covered by a beautiful Naval intelligence officer called Reyna Chase, whose interest has been aroused by someone researching secret archives dating back to before the Civil War. Even she loses patience with the impulsive Sanders, however, and he is left to battle with the bad men in an exciting climax played out deep beneath the city streets.
The writing here is intense and colourful with an urgent pace. Blake Sanders is a flawed hero, but his weaknesses are endearing, and his courage admirable. The truth about Sanders’ personal tragedy is only revealed by degrees, and then not until the closing stages of the book, so we are constantly left guessing about his motivation and fraught relationships. This is a respectable literary device, but here it is distracting. Night Blind is meant to be the first of a series of stories featuring Sanders, and it would be a shame if subsequent readers have to wade through this reverse biography every time. There is more than a hint of The Da Vinci Code in this book, both in the way the present is linked to dark deeds in the past, and also in the way most of the action takes place within a short time frame. It is good, escapist stuff, and while it asks no searching questions about the human condition, it is a worth a few hours of anyone’s reading time.
Thomas & Mercer
CFL Rating: 3 Stars