By Kris Saknussemm
The Overlook Press
In his second novel, Private Midnight, dubbed as a psychoerotic noir fairy tale, author Kris Saknussemm paints a perverse picture of an already spiritually raw man and the mysterious woman who strips away his deep layers of secrets and guilt
The story centers on homicide detective Birch Ritter, jaded by two bad marriages and his job. One morning, Jack McInnes, Ritter’s former partner, strolls into the precinct, drops a business card on his desk, and leaves without saying a word. Ritter pockets the card and seemingly forgets about it. While he’s investigating a possible suicide, he remembers the card, examines the ornate (and seemingly changing print) and decides to stop by the address. There, he is greeted by Genevieve-a redhead who knows quite a bit of Ritter’s past. She is alluring, intoxicating, and Ritter is dangerously drawn to her.
As the story progresses, Ritter becomes both obsessed and repelled by Genevieve, who-like her business card-physically changes at each encounter. During these on-demand meetings, she introduces Ritter to series of psycho-erotic acts and mind games that shred away at his psyche, and ultimately change his life forever.
Private Midnight is a mixture of various genres-detective noir, horror, and eroticism-and in each scene, Saknussemm has mastered the art of “show, don’t tell” in which he has beautifully painted a tableau of visual details rather than have typed away at a keyboard. However, in spite of all the well-written imagery, the overall story leaves the reader ambivalent to the outcome.
Saknussemm’s intent might have been stir the pot of morality and values-especially with Ritter’s baffling encounters with Genevieve–but by the novel’s end, Ritter’s metamorphosis comes across as an unsurprising cliché.