Tomorrow, the Killing by Daniel Polansky
Tomorrow, the Killing (2012) is the second book in Daniel Polansky’s LOW TOWN series, a noir-flavored fantasy set in the grimy underbelly of a fictional city. Tomorrow, the Killing takes place three years after the events of Low Town (UK: The Straight Razor Cure). You don’t necessarily need to read Low Town first because the stories stand alone, but it will be most enjoyable if you do.
In Low Town, we met a man whose friends and acquaintances call him Warden. Warden is a former soldier and police officer who’s now a crime boss. He sells (and uses) drugs, but his feelings of benevolence and/or responsibility toward the citizens of Low Town, and his previous training in the military and law enforcement, make him the right person to occasionally investigate evil-doing, find missing people, and protect the city. It wouldn’t be wrong to call him a vigilante.
Warden’s been hired to find the rebellious daughter of General Montgomery, a leader that Warden respected back when he was a soldier in the war. The general’s son was murdered in Low Town and the daughter is there searching for clues. As a young woman from a higher class, without much knowledge of Low Town, she’ll be in danger, not only from her brother’s murderer(s), but also just in general. The plot of Tomorrow, the Killing is suspenseful, convoluted, and has a shocking ending.
What’s most appealing about the LOW TOWN novels is the setting and Warden’s voice. Low Town is sleazy, lawless, corrupt, and interesting. Polansky made me feel like I was there, and several times during the story, I felt like I needed to take a shower.
Though I would probably stay far away from him in real life, Warden makes a fabulous protagonist. He’s world-weary, sarcastic, and cynical. His constant negatively-toned wise-cracking eventually becomes tiresome, he can be cruel and, of course, we wish he wouldn’t stupify himself with drugs but, for the most part, he’s a good-hearted person who’s learned that sometimes he has to take matters into his own hands if he wants to see justice done.
In Tomorrow, the Killing we learn more about Warden’s past, especially his experiences in the corrupt police force and in the war, which has clearly left its mark on Warden’s psyche. Though there are too many war flashbacks for my taste in this story, Polansky does a good job describing the brutality and futility of war and showing how those traumatic experiences can shape future behavior.
Fans of the first book will be happy to see plenty of Adolphus, Warden’s best friend, and Wren, the street urchin who weaseled his way into Warden’s life. It’s impossible not to like them. When they get caught up in Low Town protests that are likely to turn violent, Warden is desperate to keep them safe, too.
Tomorrow, the Killing was released in audiobook format in March 2020 by Tantor Media. Matt Godfrey does a good job with the narration, but I thought the deeper, more robust voice of Rob Shapiro, the narrator of the first book, was a little more fitting. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this audio version to those who want to read Tomorrow, the Killing.
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