THE HOUSE OF DUST
In the Edinburgh, Scotland, of the near future, crime supposedly doesn't exist. But no utopia stays perfect for long, and in Johnston's fifth and final crime novel featuring the grizzled Quint Dalrymple (Water of Death, etc.), the city's leaders are contemplating high-security prisons to house society's troublemakers. Dalrymple, the narrator, is a private investigator in a police state that doesn't welcome him, a blues aficionado in a world that has outlawed music. Caught in a vicious game between the guardians of Edinburgh and the prison consultants of New Oxford, Dalrymple is bullied into service when a guard is shot and a high-ranking official threatened. Johnston makes the well-worn idea of crime in a crime-free world fascinating by wrapping it inside layers of political intrigue and subterfuge. Indeed, this is as much a commentary on modern-day England as it is a stylish mystery. Plot elements like insidious youth gangs, cybernetic implants, stealth assassins and a severed arm in a politician's bathtub at times take a backseat to Johnston's convoluted political preaching, but never for long. While this novel can stand alone, readers familiar with the previous volumes will derive the most enjoyment from Johnston's richly textured brave new world. (Apr. 1)
Forecast:Johnston's novel is pricey for a mass market paperback, but it's considerably less costly than his previous three, which were released in hardcover. Enthusiastic reviews and positive word of mouth should attract new readers, but the $8.95 price tag may deter browsers.