Because I am a fairly new fan of Martin Amis's novels, I picked up slim Night Train (Knopf Canada) with much interest. Amis is well known for novelistic experimentation (his Time's Arrow is written in reverse time), and he doesn't disappoint here. While the bulk of his work seems to be populated with pathetic-yet-somehow-lovable male protagonists, he writes this one from a female point of view. Yet he toys with this challenge, creating Mike Hoolihan—yes, a woman—as a tough-talking recovering alcoholic, a fifteen-year "police" who has seen it all, from "jumpers, stumpers, dumpers, dunkers, bleeders, floaters, poppers, [and] bursters" to the novel's focal case.
Mike's feminine side is, as one might conclude from her name, subdued. But Amis rises to the gender challenge by making Mike human, above all, as she tries to solve the "worst" case she's ever seen—an apparent suicide of the daughter of a friend on the force. The novel is a mystery, sustained with a rare blend of plain-speaking philosophy on the nature of happiness and a cool technical suspense. I read it straight through, and kept thinking and wondering—long after the "case" was "solved."