The Extinction Event
by David Black
Cover Artist: Yolande de Kort / Trevillion
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Forge Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765322616
Date: 25 May 2010 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Sixty-year-old lawyer Jack Slidell of Mycenae, New York receives a mysterious phone call, luring him to the sleazy Dutch Village Motel. He discovers his boss, Frank Milhet, dead from cocaine laced with cyanide, and a badly beaten prostitute, Jean Gaynor, who later dies from her wounds. A prime suspect in their deaths, Jack enlists the help of a beautiful, young coworker, Caroline Wonder, to discover the real killer. They soon learn that Jean has connections to the wealthy Flowers family and to a mysterious illness plaguing citizens of Mycenae. Meanwhile, a vicious hit man known only as the Cowboy begins stalking Jack and killing anyone who might reveal a secret affecting the entire world.
Part romantic mystery, part crime drama, part medical thriller, David Black's The Extinction Event is one literary event you don't want to miss. Its humorous, eccentric characters; highly detailed, believable descriptions (that make the reader feel he/she is actually there); and philosophical, provocative viewpoints on life make this novel very unique. The Extinction Event emphasizes that we are to live for the moment, because tomorrow is never guaranteed. There is an ever growing romantic relationship between Jack and Caroline who is young enough to be his daughter. The mysteries surrounding the murders of Frank and Jean and their involvement with the Flowers family were intriguing. Electrical pollution, specifically the harmful effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation, has actually been suspected in the ailments of children living under higher-voltage electrical transmission lines.
Jack Slidell represents the poor man who has struggled hard to educate himself and rise above his station in life. A strong, muscular man who looks like Sean Connery, he worked as a dock laborer while attending Columbia Law School; he was also a reporter for the New York Daily News. Every year, he and his equally rugged, rifle-toting brother, Bix, participate in the demolition derby at the state fair. Caroline Wonder, on the other hand, is wealthy; she lives with her sister Nicole and her eccentric, elderly uncle, Dixie. Jack believes the spoiled Caroline was simply handed her job at their law firm of Milhet and Alvarez. Timid at first, Caroline soon is carrying a weapon and sticking to Jack like glue as they share danger while investigating the murders of Frank and Jean.
During Jack and Caroline's investigation, there are numerous suspenseful scenes such as the life-and-death struggles on board a racing commuter train and on top of a Ferris wheel at the county fair. Fortunately, the violence is offset by scenes of comic relief such as the two men in chicken outfits who fight over the right to advertise fried chicken on their opposing street corners. The novel's plot is spiced with oddball characters such as the very obese Madame whose whorehouse, Mama Lucky's Topless, is named after her; she provides Jack with much needed information. The wealthy concrete magnate, Keating Flowers, owns a castle that has been purposely allowed to fall into ruins; he has filled it with life-like human sculptures, which he sells to collectors; one sculpture lays floating facedown in the backyard pool.
An award-winning journalist, novelist, screenwriter and producer, David Black has become a Hollywood icon. Working undercover, he has risked his life while performing research for magazine articles; in Haiti, Baby Doc's secret police put him under house arrest. He is most noteworthy for having produced and written numerous television crime series including Monk, CSI: Miami, Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Trial by Jury and the original Law & Order. Many controversial episodes have won awards. Legacy of Lies is his award-winning television film chronicling the lives of three generations of Jewish gangsters and police officers in Chicago. The Extinction Event would be perfect for a television miniseries because of its many scenes of violence and its vast assortment of colorful characters from all walks of life.
The controversial ending for The Extinction Event is designed to shock and horrify the reader and force them to take a look at their life; however, it seemed rather over the top. (Some would say it was contrived or rushed.) Nevertheless, the foreshadowed apocalyptic event does serve its purpose in regards of putting our everyday problems into perspective. Recently, I went to the doctor, fearing I had the big C, and discovered I only had an infection. I was greatly relieved. All my problems seemed so small compared to cancer. The Extinction Event is designed to make our everyday problems seem small compared to what they could be. It's trying to tell us: "Don't worry about today; go ahead and live your life, because it may all end tomorrow."
The Extinction Event is highly recommended for fans of crime noir seeking something a little more earth shattering.