Where Night Stops, a new novel by Douglas Light, is a gripping thriller written in deliciously literary prose. The protagonist ends up over his head in a money laundering scheme when a homeless man named Ray-Ray hands him a message in a bar of soap. That message leads him to the local library, which sets him off on a series of jobs that seem easy enough, and pay well. There’s just one problem: he has no idea what he’s doing, no idea why someone is paying him $300 to pick up checks from pre-arranged points and deposit them in library books. He calls these mysterious jobs “Kam Manning,” and inches in further and further, convincing himself that he’s not doing anything wrong.
The novel unravels slowly. It starts with our narrator in a bar with a woman who complains of being ugly. She sits next to our protagonist, trading a few lines of witty banter. She says that “My heart is a divided Vienna,” referencing Orson Welles’s The Third Man.
Fans of The Third Man and other old film noir classics will love sinking their teeth into Where Night Stops. The protagonist finds himself enmeshed in a mystery, deep in a plot far bigger than himself filled with moral ambiguity. Light also has a talent for sharp dialogue and narration, with lines that match Graham Greene’s dark wit. The woman calls Indiana a miserable place: “It’s like being caught at the edge of a sneeze. A constant, awful feeling of wanting to do something you can’t seem to make yourself do . . . Indiana is waiting for something you know can’t happen.”
The narrator keeps a kind of Midwest naivety about him for the entire novel, even as he winds himself deeper and deeper into the hole of these odd jobs, and realizes their possibly sinister nature. “Since leaving Windstop, I’ve traveled the world and killed a few people, though always in self-defense. Always in the interest of self-preservation.” The novel is about the choices he made that led him down that path. “We’re born with a finite number of opportunities. Attrition, bad choices, misspent goodwill, and fucked-up luck. The opportunities dwindle through a process called living. Our portfolio of prospects turns into a tattered novel of outcomes.”
Where Night Stops is a gripping read unlike anything you’ve read before.
The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.