World-wide corporate headquarters for The Hungry Detective is located in Rochester New York. If you know Rochester, and the surrounding Syracuse and Buffalo area it would not surprise you that few author make use of the barren rust belt landscapes of Western New York. That is unless you are a practitioner of the neo-noir from the last half of this decade. When the occasional book does come across the transom it is always exciting to reading about the region of your home.
Mr. Nikitas's Edgar nominated first book, PYRES, was set in his home town of Rochester. This peaked my interest immensely, but my discovery of Mr. Nikitas's origin was only after I had picked up his second, THE LONG DIVISION. Acquiring a copy of PYRES without the involvement of satellite libraries in the Monroe County Library system, proved difficult. PYRES will have to wait. THE LONG DIVISION will suffice even though the setting for this book has moved to the Southern Tier of New York. Trust me it is all still wasteland. And as someone who lives in the area I mean this in the nicest possible way.
THE LONG DIVISION follow four characters. First is sheriff deputy Sam Hartwick. His wife is dying, and he is hustling to take her to Costa Rica on one last vacation. Wynn is a math wiz with a serious fixation on a girl who could not be more wrong for him. Cal is the adopted son of University professors. He's gay and wondering about the mother who gave up years ago. And then their is Jodie. A house cleaner who can't for the life of her figure out what went wrong. Her poorly reasoned solution seems to be finding the son she gave up for adoption all those years ago.
THE LONG DIVISION is chock full of emotional damaged characters, and what can not be denied about the book is that it is all fantastically depressing. I did find it difficult to push through the blend of neurosis, compulsions and plain old self destructive behaviors from our lead characters. The joys of THE LONG DIVISION come exclusively from Mr. Nikitas's fine hand and not the story. Not one character is without serious baggage in THE LONG DIVISION. And as these things go you wait for the layers of this tear filled onion to peal away to reveal fresh horror and connection between all of them. It is a difficult role of the dice for the author. The book could so easily become a loose collection of sad sack characters that engender no sympathy about them or their circumstance. THE LONG DIVISION presents the whole drama with a dull air of reality that serves to imbue the book with fatalistic honesty. Each one of Mr. Nikitas's creation could be that caricature we only read about in books. These cutout usually only serve to point the finger back at the reader for the well intentioned but ignored moral: 'Don't make the same mistakes I did.' And quite frankly that character has not worked since Jacob Marley. What saves Cal, Sam, Wynn, and Jodie in THE LONG DIVISION is each has a desire within their own heart to be a better person, and not just for themselves but for the other people in their life. Their lack of selfishness, this quest for redemption, to change their life is the light that sits at the center of THE LONG DIVISION.