Author: Tere Michaels
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Rating: 4 stars
Type: Standalone Novel
Received from Publisher
Blurb: In a dystopian near future, New York City has become the epicenter of decadence—gambling, the flesh trade, a playground for the wealthy. And underneath? Crime, fueled by “Dead Bolt,” a destructive designer drug. This New City is where Nox Boyet leads a double life. At night, he is the Vigilante, struggling to keep the streets safe for citizens abandoned by the corrupt government and police. During the day, he works in construction and does his best to raise his adopted teenaged son, Sam.
A mysterious letter addressed to Sam brings Nox in direct contact with “model” Cade Creel, a high-end prostitute working at the Iron Butterfly Casino. Suspicion gives way to an intense attraction as dark figures from Nox’s past and the mysterious peddlers of Dead Bolt begin to descend—and put all their lives in danger. When things spin out of control, Cade is the only person Nox can trust to help him save Sam.
Review: Nox is alone. Nox has been alone for a long time. Even before the rain started Nox was effectively abandoned by his mentally ill mother and workaholic father. Despite having wealth, there weren’t a lot of good times to remember. Now, in a New York separated by income inequality, an unequal justice system, and run down neighborhoods, Nox is still alone trying to protect his son, Sam, from gangs, drugs, and the truth. When a beautiful man shows up on Nox’s front steps with a letter for his son promising knowledge of this real parents, Nox finds himself both terrified and resentful. He needs to find out more about Cade Creel and what he’s up to. Nox finds out Cade is a prostitute and where he works. Nox buys himself a little time with the man. It doesn’t really work out as intended. Weird stuff is happening in the high class, casino filled District that is the playground that was once New York. Nox also sees someone he long thought to be dead. When Cade shows up at his house again, Nox finds he has to help him. Both men want answers to what is going on. Neither man is really ready to admit their interest may be more than about keeping themselves safe.
Nox is overwhelmed. Sam is a typical cantankerous teenager. Not only do they have a strong loving bond, but their relationship is pretty dysfunctional and held together with a lot of guilt. Sam wants to know who his parents are. He wants to believe there may be someone out there still looking for him. Sam wants to believe he wasn’t thrown away. Nox knows Sam’s parentage and has no intention whatsoever of letting him find out. Nox is fully aware that knowing your parents doesn’t prevent them from throwing you away. Cade wants to know the whole story of Nox and Sam, but there are things happening where he works that simply do not make sense at all. Bomb scares have become common and Cade’s friend is missing. To top it all off, Cade has no clue why he was chosen to deliver the letter to Sam in the first place. It’s all weird and both Nox and Cade want to get to the bottom of it. Of course, that’s the perfect time for an old mystery to resurface. And more drugs start showing up on the streets. Things are snowballing and Nox and Cade have no one to trust but each other.
The most disturbing thing about this dystopian book was the plausibility. People will give up a lot of freedom for either “the greater good” or “the children.” As the poorer neighborhoods in New York submitted to curfews and diminishing services to help rebuild the wealthy playground that was the District, so did Nox give up himself and become nothing but the protector of Sam and the neighborhood. Both are slowly withering away and being used up. Both the District and Sam were resentful of the very people who made their lives possible. Nox and Sam’s relationship was incredibly poignant. Cade and Nox were the only people at the end of the day who knew the whole truth about Sam’s existence. Finally Nox has someone with whom he can share his burden.
I’m not entirely sure why Nox’s father’s enemies would still be after Nox as all signs point to drug traffickers who are actively dealing Dead Bolt in the city as the people chasing Nox. I can see that they would want Nox dead because of his activities as the local vigilante. I don’t understand how this could be related to Nox’s father’s activities in any way more than coincidence. Maybe it’s just Nox’s paranoia, maybe I missed something. I don’t know. Bad drug dealers are after Nox and Sam. All signs are pointing to a drug ring that has been in business a very long time.
There was a lot of world building and character set up in this book and despite the fact there is no big cliffhanger ending the story is unresolved at the end of the book. Everyone is safe, but everything is still a mystery and relationships are nascent at best. A lot of very important stuff certainly happened in this book, but by no means did this book feel like the meat of the story. This was the appetizer round and felt like it. I am ready and waiting for the next course.