Central City is a crime fiction novel from writer and ‘recovering academic’, Indy Perro.
A decent debut novel, Central City marvels the reader with its well-developed characters and a remarkable setting that oozes with atmosphere. The narrative, however, doesn’t quite reach these heights.
Regardless, if you enjoy crime fiction, Central City is certainly worth reading.
*Disclaimer: I received a free advance reading copy from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Mapping Central CityCentral City itself is a brilliant setting.
Indy Perro has crafted a truly living world. From the seedy Waite Park, where the infamous ‘Dungeon’ resides, to the labyrinthine housing estates of The Heights, the novel maps its city expertly.
“They stared at the erect downtown skyline, the center of attention at the edge of the great lake. The skyscrapers dropped a few stories as the developments drifted into Midtown, whose most prominent feature was the circular shape of the Central City Chateau, the stadium. The dome of the capitol, white marble lit by multi-colored floodlights, glowed adjacent to the modern epicenter, and St. Catherine’s hovered on the rise to Uptown. To their left, the neighborhoods of Kane’s youth spread beyond sight, a glitter of street lamps and traffic lights, and south of the old neighborhoods spread the low-lying tenements, trailers, and broken-down homes of the south side. Could Bayonne see things from Kane’s angle?”
Central City, Indy Perro
Over the course of the novel, Bayonne, McKenna, and Kane visit motels, bars, residential neighbourhoods, and more – all the staples of an American crime novel. But these places don’t feel cliché or underdeveloped. Perro has a wonderful way of fleshing out the crime scene (for want of a better phrase).
I’ve seen Central City described as a noir novel, and indeed the (rather fantastic) book cover itself implies a noir atmosphere and aesthetic.
However, aside from the prologue, it didn’t feel all too noir to me. Yes, Central City is a place of corruption, its characters imperfect, but it doesn’t capture the bleak, nihilistic feeling of a noir. The novel feels much closer to a mish-mash of the ‘buddy cop’ and hardboiled detective genres.
Regardless, this works very well.
The Characters of Central City
Told in 3rd person, the story follows two strands; Bayonne & McKenna’s search for the murderer and Kane’s dealings with Tran Van Khan, an aggressive local gangster with influence.
Vinnie Bayonne is a gnarled, wizened detective with years of experience behind him – he knows how to handle himself. Adam McKenna is a younger, inexperienced rookie – naive and nerdy, but earnest and enthusiastic.
The two play off each other really well. Vinnie’s darker sense of humour and Adam’s enthusiasm produce some good chemistry. The ‘master and apprentice’ trope is something we’ve seen plenty of times before, but ultimately, they’re an enjoyable double-act and the novel is much better for it.
Kane, one of Vinnie’s insiders in the local gang scene, is a survivor. Following his father’s death at an early age, he learns to look after himself. Ultimately, he falls in with a gang and, eventually, lands himself a place in prison.
Despite this, Kane remains calm, thoughtful, and observant.
“I love this city because it’s a palimpsest.”
“Who do you think you’re fooling with words like that?”
“The present is written on top of the past.”
Kane remarks to Bayonne
He’s a well-developed character, probably the person we learn most about, and he’s pivotal to the plot. Speaking of…
The plot isn’t as strong as it could be.
It meanders (considering Central City is already a short book), and as ambitious as it could be. As it stands, it reads like a local dispute that got slightly out of hand.
By no means is it a poor narrative, but I feel that there is a lot of squandered potential.
For example, could there have been more tension between Bayonne and McKenna? Could somebody have made an attempt on Bayonne’s life? Maybe there could have been more ambiguity over where Kane’s allegiances lay?
And then there’s the dialogue, which is very good by the way, but there’s a lot of it.
The dialogue does an excellent job of fleshing out Central City‘s characters. Perro captures their voices well, in a way not dissimilar to Stephen King actually. There is an audiobook version of Central City, which I haven’t listened to, but I think would make for a pretty great experience.
However, there’s so much dialogue that at times it reads more like a screenplay than a novel. It’s clear that Perro is a talented prose writer, so it’s a pity that there isn’t more of it!
Final Verdict ⭐⭐⭐
If you’re into crime fiction, you’ll probably enjoy Central City. For a debut novel, it’s a solid entry.
Perro is a decent writer, and there’s a lot of potential for a sequel or (my personal preference) a range of short stories set in Central City.
All-in-all, it’s a decent novel, but I’d have liked more from the plot.
*For more information on the Tales from Absurdia rating scale, please read the review rating system.