I remember that reviews at the time of publication, dismissed Amis’ novel as a poor attempt to write an American noir but the reviewers missed the point. Amis is a stylist, utilizing appearance to subvert what we expect of plot, the reason we usually read novels.
In the first-person narrative of ‘Night Train‘, we follow the attempt by Detective Mike Hoolihan to solve what her former boss is describing as a murder. Her experience as a homicide detective means that Mike comes to doubt everything she is being told. Her former boss is, after all, the grieving father of the young woman, Jennifer, who has been found with bullet wounds to the head.
Through Mike’s investigation, Amis is asking why if, we are used to the reality of homicide detectives, there are no police investigating suicides. Why is there is no attempt to put the story of a person’s life into the sort of perspective that their families, those ‘left behind’, can be given to give them at least a token of comfort? Why would someone with an apparently perfect life and assured future, choose to end everything with such violence?
This is not a ‘crime’ novel nor even an American-style mystery ‘noir’ but instead a metaphysical exploration of the sort more usually written by Continental authors but dressed with the styling, pace and grittiness of a contemporary TV show. This is a great novel and the Amis novel I have enjoyed the most.