On The Edge by J.B. Christopher is a gritty, seedy, and well-imagined police procedural of the classic noir type.
In Essence: On The Edge
On The Edge is a dark tale of a gambling den that thought itself above the law. It opens with the reveal of a bomb-extortion plot; a bomb inside a landmark casino in Reno, Nevada, and the Bomb Squad’s partial destruction of the building.
Ruby Oliveras, the battered, increasingly sickened detective, follows the thread of an intricate set of circumstances around a many-sided blackmail plot. The story scratches the surface of the glamorous gambling world and reveals a grimy undercoat.
Oliveras is a complex character with more than one dark side, yet he’s unmistakably ‘good’. He may not be a brilliant detective (that even gets a mention somewhere in the book) but he’s dogged and hot-headed and basically honest. And he cracks the case, though it doesn’t do him much good. He’s human. He’s shown temptation in the form of money and sex, but resists it all – even while his relationship suffers. The guy’s a cool, hard, tired hero of the reality-check variety.
What’s great about it?
JB Christopher uses vivid imagery of a backwater gambling city and its ever-present filth of corruption. On The Edge creates the black and white visuals of classic noir and uses all elements of the genre right down to the femme fatale and the fall guy. Nothing is left out, not even the detective’s own self-loathing, which makes it a satisfying read. The themes are also true to the genre, dealing with betrayal, loss–money, status, and love–and the question of moral fortitude: is there really any merit in having moral strength?
The book uses backstories around the characters to deepen the reader’s understanding of the present situation in each case. You’re not just following the story; as you read, you’re learning about the people involved. It implements various twists throughout to keep you guessing, and there’s no drop in tension or action. Oliveras’ energy drags the reader through the narrative as he screws up his relationship, pisses off his senior officers and attempts to stay ahead of the game.
Will you like it?
On The Edge is a police procedural thriller, so if you fall into the YES camp, it’s a winner. If those novels aren’t for you, so be it, but it’s nicely crafted, engaging, and has a decent flawed hero, so maybe worth a read in any case. (You can tell I fell a little bit in love with Oliveras, can’t you?)