Eric Jerome Dickey doesn't write about the nicest people in the world, but who would you rather read about Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm or Gideon, Dickey's not-quite-cold-blooded hitman and the protagonist of his latest noirish novel?In Sleeping with Strangers, first in a two-part series, we meet Gideon on a plane to Europe. He's between hits, but mostly between two women, the endlessly grieving Mrs. Jones and Lola Mack, a chatterbox of an actress/masseuse. As befits a noir anti-hero, Gideon has an attitude toward women that's not as enlightened as it might be, which doesn't stop him from getting entangled with both of them (to what end we will no doubt see in part two, Waking With Enemies, to be published in August). Once in London he reconnects with Arizona, a con artist who's still smarting from their thwarted romance and who shows herself to be so mean that her own sister puts a contract on her. Along with the murders for hire, Gideon has also come to Europe for a reckoning with Thelma, a prostitute who did him very very wrong a long time ago. What is revealed at their meeting in London's red light district is so shocking that if you saw it coming, you're as much of a genius as Dickey.
Dickey, aside from being a fine writer his strengths here are pacing and plot and his descriptions of a perpetually cold and rainy London has a disturbing knowledge of the world of professional assassins, including the many ways it's possible to dispatch a human being. The way Gideon kills one of his victims is so inventive that the reader feels a tug of admiration. But Gideon isn't a monster; this particular hit was nearly a friend, and his death fills Gideon with something like remorse for a few minutes. He takes care of Lola when her dreams of life in London don't pan out, and his instinct is to genuinely comfort Mrs. Jones, whose marriage is breaking up. Dickey once again displays his rare gift of keeping readers engaged with unsavory folk. Sleeping with Strangers is a true page-turner you won't be able to wait for the conclusion.
Arlene McKanic writes from Jamaica, New York.