Tomorrow City by Kirk Kjeldsen follows a tragic hero, Brendan Lavin, as he starts his life over after a stint in prison. The story opens with Brendan, late to work at a struggling bakery he owns in New York. His girlfriend, Maureen, is in nursing school and the pair never really interacts. Just as Brendan’s bakery is about to fail, a group of men from his past life of crime show up and entice him to join them in an armored car robbery. Out of desperation, he joins his friends Tommy, Ducie, Sean, Whale and J.J. in the robbery. Tommy dies in the robbery attempt, but the rest make it out alive with seventeen-thousand dollars each. Unfortunately, Maureen leaves after finding out Brendan was the last person to talk to Tommy before his death. Concerned, and not wanting to return to prison, Brendan travels to Shanghai with the rest of his money and a stolen identity from his cousin John.
Twelve years pass and Brendan has a bustling bakery in Shanghai. He marries a local woman, Li, and has a daughter, Xiaodan. One day, his criminal friends show up at the bakery, accusing him of ratting them out. As recompense, Ducie orders Brendan to accompany the gang in robbing a diamond merchant.
In Tomorrow City, Kjeldsen makes Brendan a sympathetic character, his seedy past getting the better of him again and again. While it appears Brendan feels remorse, he finds it difficult to escape the ongoing criminal cycle. Brendan’s remorse is personified in a bleeding hallucination of his friend, Tommy. The second half of the book was much like an extended version of the first part, but Kjeldsen managed to make the repeating cycle exciting. The end leaves readers with many questions. Will Brendan ever escape his criminal past? Will his friends come back to haunt him once more?
Location description was definitely the story’s strong point. I could imagine the streets of Shanghai, described in perfect clarity, filled with smog and city smells. In the bakery scenes, I could smell and taste baking bread. In the action scenes, I could hear the gunshots and imagine the violence, gushing blood and crunching bone. I felt like I was in the middle of an action movie.
Tomorrow City was a short novel, but the repeating motif of the main character’s life journey was more than enough. I didn’t want to know definitively if Brendan escaped his life of crime. I wanted to be left wondering.
|Signal 8 Press
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|Mystery, Crime, Thriller