When Cindy disappears the community is in near panic; Cindy isn’t the first girl to disappear and everyone is afraid she won’t be the last. There is a heavy load of pressure placed on the police department—particularly its small detective bureau—to find the girl and stop the killer. The detectives assigned to the case all have their own problems. Two of them are former lovers, and the third drinks too much and is a little crazy.
The Midnight Room isn’t a typical serial killer novel. The killer is revealed early in the story—the second chapter—and its focus is less on the killer and more on the drama that plays between the detectives, their work, and their families. It’s important to stress that it isn’t a drama. It’s very much in the crime noir form and Mr Gorman uses the tropes and expectations to develop the dark, sharp and poignant struggle of good and evil that rages in his characters, just as it rages in us all.
The characters are varied and well created—none are completely good and none are completely bad. Two of the detectives are brothers—Steve and Michael Scanlon. The older is their father’s favorite, but he has never been quite right. He wants everything fast and easy, while the younger is the more dependable, but underappreciated, son and detective. The story whirls around the two in a frenzy of misfortune, bad choices, and plain bad luck.
There is also a street tough ex-con named Leo Rice who is out for revenge. Steve Scanlon killed his brother while on the beat a few years back and now Leo wants his pound. Rice is the perfect street tough. He is hard, violent and stupid, all in one pure mixture. Add to that the serial killer, an aging father, a tough female detective and a missing girl who are all starkly vivid in Gorman’s deceptively simple prose, and you have a story that is vibrant and true.
The Midnight Room is a terrific lean and hard crime thriller. Its roots are deep in the hardboiled and noir genres, but it is nothing less than original. The characters and its dark vision of an unfair world raise it well beyond the expected, and in the end it’s the very bitter dark that offers redemption for both the characters and the reader.