cover image Night Train

Night Train

Martin Amis. Crown Publishing Group, $20 (175pp) ISBN 978-0-609-60128-0

Amis certainly never writes the same book twice. After major efforts like London Fields and The Information and smaller ingenuities like Time's Arrow comes this extremely slender attempt at a dark American crime story. His narrator is a hefty, tough-talking policewoman called Mike Hoolihan, who strains credulity right off by announcing herself as ""a police"" and asserting that this is how cops refer to themselves. In an imaginary American city that seems to be a mix of Chicago and Boston but isn't really either, she has been called in by an old buddy, a senior police official, to investigate the apparent suicide of his beautiful daughter, Jennifer Rockwell. Jennifer, a brilliant astrophysicist (another chance for Amis to display his fascination with the galaxies), seemed to have everything to live for, yet she apparently shot herself through the head three times. (Is this possible? Yes, according to Mike's research). Her lover is a possible murder suspect, and so is a man who may have been another, if improbable, party in her life. But as Mike digs, it becomes apparent that Jennifer was a much stranger person than anyone knew. It's not exactly a rivetingly original story, and Amis's echt tough American narrative style, though clearly the work of a clever ventriloquist, is unconvincing. The length suggests this was no more than an experiment, and it can only be described as an unsuccessful one: readers in search of the Amis they admire will have to wait. Author tour. (Feb.)