Near Enemy by Adam SternberghNear Enemy by Adam Sternbergh

Book came in the mail. White package. Black letters. Had my name on it, so yeah, I opened it. Not that I wasn’t careful. Near Enemy was the title. Name on the cover said Sternbergh. Rang a bell like I was sitting ringside at the big fight. Turns out I’d seen this guy before. Him and his character Spademan. Now they’re back. Can’t say I’m surprised.

Not that there weren’t any surprises waiting. Like that rich guy getting offed in the limn. The offings not the surprise though. Guys getting’ killed all days all ways in the limn. Dead in the virtual world, just wake up in the real world. Happens all the time. ‘Cept this guy never woke up. Someone figured out how to murder folks in the limn so they stay murdered. People, huh? We’ll f—k up everything, every place. Just give us time.

What’s Spademan’s role? Besides narrating like he’s getting charged by the word and his credit card’s all maxed out? Turns out the one witness — bed hopper named Lesser — was a job. Someone wanted him dead. It’s what Spademan does. Now he’s got another reason to find Lesser. And another employer. A top cop named Boonce. Seems murder in the limn makes the higher ups twitchy. ‘Specially if the murderer was wearing a bhurka, given Times Square’s still almost glowing from the last terror attack. ‘Specially since Boonce’s own boss, the top cop, is now running for mayor. Great. ‘Cause everything goes better when politics and religion get in the mix.

And dames. Three of ‘em to be precise. Persephone from book one is back, baby daughter in tow, and don’t even get her started on what’s a girl gotta do to get some diaper wipes ‘round here. Not to mention all those folks trying to kill her. Plus we got a hard-drinking nurse named Nurse with a tourniquet-tight uniform and a mouth as sharp as the business end of a syringe. Who just happened to be taking care of the two guys who died in the limn. Yeah, I know what you’re thinkin’. Coincidence, right? Sure, it’s a no-brainer she knows more than she’s lettin’ on. Save Spademan ain’t thinking with his brain, ya know?

It’s a mess, sure as Times Square’s leaking rads, and that ain’t even the most toxic thing in New York. It’s the people. Not all of ‘em, no, you got that right. But that’s the trick, ain’t it? Figuring out which are the bad ones, which are the good ones, and which are the ones who aren’t all bad — just bad some of the time. When the time calls for some bad. By the end, Spademan’s got it somewhat figured, though not all of it. And no, I’m not saying who’s who.

Push comes to shove though, and it always does in this book, I have to say the figurin’ ain’t too tough. You got a view of the bad guys comin’ like you’re standing on top of the New York Times Building (and if ya read the book you’ll know why that’s funny).

Predictability isn’t the only problem. I’m not gonna lie, much as I mostly like the guy’s mode of talking, Spademan’s stingy way with words kinda grates sometimes, the way he can make Hemingway looks like Faulkner. Plus the shifts from first person to omniscient can jar like a bad subway ride. And yeah, I used the word omniscient. Got it offa my word calendar. And again, if you read the book, you’ll know why that’s funny. Finally, get ready for a Spademan three. Cause Sternbergh leaves the reader dangling like a cigarette on the lip of a guy who just took two shots to the ticker. Ash-hole.

Problems and all though, I kinda liked this Near Enemy story. No, it ain’t as good as the first one. But not as good as good is still lots better than bad the way I do the math. So yeah, I enjoyed it. Gonna get me the next one too. But I’m hopin’ it’s better. Hear that Sternbergh? Cause I know a guy that takes care of guys. Name’s Spademan. Best you remember that as you write the next one.

Published January 2015. New York is toxic—decimated by a dirty bomb years ago. The limnosphere is a virtual safe haven—if you’re rich enough to buy in. Spademan is a hit man—box-cutter at the ready. His latest job is to snuff out Lesser, a lowlife lurking around other people’s fantasies. As Spademan is about to close the deal, Lesser comes back from the limn with a wild claim: terrorists are planning to attack New York. Again. This time from the inside out. The warning sends Spademan down a dark path full of unsavory characters and startling revelations. A shadowy political fixer tells him of a long-running power struggle that goes all the way to City Hall. A brilliant Egyptian radical brings Spademan to the mysterious far-reaches of the limn. And a beautiful nurse holds the secret to what, and who, is behind these attacks—and she seems to want to help Spademan stop them. But he works best alone. Or so he thinks. Spademan has always had his share of enemies, but now they’re coming at him from all sides and it’s impossible to know whom to trust. To stay sharp, his only option might be the one thing he swore he’d never do again.


  • Bill Capossere

    BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.