As the jacket promises, Three A.M. by Steven John is a dark, moody thriller shrouded in mystery and fog. Thomas Vale is the unlikeable, hard-drinking, pessimistic main character – and though he is unlikeable, you care about what is happening to him. After fifteen years shrouded in fog, with only glimpses at the sun, Thomas Vale meets Rebecca Smith. Tom, an occasion private investigator, reluctantly agrees to help Rebecca in solving a murder. Of course, he can’t help but be further dragged into the investigation.
Three A.M. is a gritty novel, not quite gripping, but close. It walks a fine line between being noir fiction, a thriller, or speculative fiction (or, more precisely, all three at different times). It is reminiscent of the hardboiled detective novels that were popularized during Dashiell Hammet’s era (the novel is so dark and foggy that I couldn’t help picturing the events in black and white!). While the first half of the novel is a little slow, the second half is worth the wait (though there is a tonal shift that is rather abrupt). Overall, this is a solid debut from newcomer Steven John and an interesting addition to the speculative fiction genre. If you like this, you might enjoy Soft Apocalypse or Hitchers by Will McIntosh.