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Private Midnight Hardcover – March 5, 2009

4.9 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. James Ellroy meets David Lynch in this addictive mix of noir and supernatural horror from Saknussemm (Zanesville). Det. Birch Ritter investigates the suspected suicide of California real estate magnate Deems Whitney, who apparently doused his Mercedes with gasoline and died in the resultant explosion a day after changing his will to benefit his trophy wife and disinherit his grown children. Before the cop can interview Whitney's widow, Ritter receives a cryptic message from his ex-partner that steers him to the enigmatic Genevieve Wyvern. Wyvern, who disconcerts Ritter with how well she knows his past, plunges him into a surreal world of bondage, domination and mind games. Despite being humiliated by Wyvern, Ritter finds himself unable to stay away from her lair. An unexpected and bizarre twist well into the novel jolts the fairly standard plot off the rails, but the powerful narrative voice will compel most readers to follow. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Life is piling up for Det. Birch Ritter. He's a big man loaded down with ugly cases; guilty secrets; a violent, ethically dubious approach to police work; fresh divorce papers; and a personal demon he calls El Miedo. A crooked colleague sends Ritter to Genevieve, a woman who is equal parts psychiatrist, seer, and dominatrix. So begins Ritter's dark spiral downward, a series of strange changes that cannot be explained by the laws of the world as he knows it. Saknussemm (Zanesville) creates an original blend of noir procedural, horror, and dark eroticism but sometimes loses control of his own linguistic dexterity. The result is intriguing but also muddled and awkwardly paced. A great rush of late developments suggests that either a sequel is forthcoming or that the book's most captivating questions will remain partly unanswered. What is the extent of Genevieve's power? What is the truth about Ritter's past? What will become of him? Saknussemm is a writer to watch, but this book is recommended only for large libraries where complex genre-bending works have found readership.—Neil Hollands, Williamsburg Regional Lib., VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; First Edition edition (March 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590201760
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590201763
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,295,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Told in the voice of the crime noir classics, with intense erotica and unsettling psychological horror in abundance, Detective Birch Ritter's story is one I can guarantee you've never heard. Over the course of his unhappy and unfaithful life, he has seen much of the surface darkness of humanity--the crimes we commit against each other, the lies we sell--but with the introduction to what he at first assumes to be a high class hooker, he is exposed to an inner darkness that even he could never have imagined. A darkness that both seduces and repels, and in the end--reveals and transforms.

There is so much to see in this book, so much to hear and feel, and so much to learn. It is an assault on the senses, a stinging whip and a tickling feather, and a lesson in division that vividly illustrates the tenuous nature of borders. Good or evil, torment or salvation, pleasure or pain, fear or hope, submission or dominance...male or female--where do the distinctions lie?

Others may say Private Midnight is not for the squeamish, but I say it is exactly what the squeamish need--to shake 'em up and wake 'em up.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I got interested in Kris's writing, via his posts of snippets of his work, on Facebook. I enjoy his somewhat dark, and often humorous perspective on human nature, and his extensive personal experience with aspects of human nature and very different cultures, around the world, which truly inform his writing style.

Private Midnight is written in a noir-ish style, featuring a police detective whose life is falling apart; he's lost a couple of wives, his home, some friends, and and now he is a bit unclear about where his work ends and his personal life begins, or vice versa. His beat involves him, on a daily basis, with too much corruption, violence and mortality for any normal life. The book follows him, as he becomes involved with a mysterious, highly changeable woman, who lives totally outside of any conventional reality that he had been aware of. Is she involved in high-end prostitution? Role-playing games? Or something much more complex, and ultimately irresistible, to him? He finds himself becoming drawn ever deeper in the unbelievable scenarios she creates for every visit to her house; a house that changes, according to her will and contains many levels and many very disturbing secrets, treasures and awful devices and mementos. He finds he has entered a word that will change him and perhaps free him or destroy him... Great, engaging novel, if you enjoy challenging, dark fiction in much different vein.. that draws on noir detective novels, Jungian concepts of archetypes, and psychological transformations and dynamic processes.. I also found it reminiscent of Hermann Hesse's Evening at the Magic Theatre, "For Madmen Only, Price of Admission Your Mind".
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a startling and disturbing psychological thriller with heady doses of both the erotic and the surreal. Saknussemms' first person is totally believable and compelling. The atmosphere is intense and so fully realized that you feel you have stepped into this strange dream and can't get out. Even as the mysteries unfold, a deeper darkness sets in. Crime readers will enjoy this as a genre work, but the real mysteries are of the psyche. This is a book of revelation.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It seems like a detective story, and retains a lot of the conventions, the tough but flawed police detective, the femme fatale who holds all the cards, and is also the suspect in a murder investigation. It doesn't stay there however, opening up into a completely different avenue to consider things like facing the past, repression, power, gender struggles and the difficulty of fighting something you can't even understand. Fascinating and original story and well worth your time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was totally engrossed. Private Midnight creates its own language and world, and it takes a couple of chapters to find your bearings. But with that accomplished I was swept along by this weird, powerful vision. Reminds me a little of some of Russell Hoban's novels. A great read.
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Format: Hardcover
Kris Saknussemm made a splash with his first novel, Zanesville, and Private Midnight, his second novel, solidifies his reputation as an edgy, creative and blackly comic writer. Private Midnight's themes and styles morph from noir to supernatural thriller to philosophical treatise on gender politics, and while not each incarnation is equally successful, the writing is at all times a joy. This man loves language. He loves words. I couldn't stop myself from reading some lines out loud, and that alone puts this book on my recommended list.

The story opens in fine noir style, with world weary battered police detective Birch Ritter trying to connect the dots on a couple of murders no one else sees as murders, while struggling with the temptation to visit an address his former, now estranged, partner gave him without explanation. Ritter suspects the address will lead him to a woman of pleasure, but he has no idea what shadow lands she occupies. Naturally, he can't help but find out.

Ritter is a man with secrets himself. The first part of the novel deals with self-sabotage, and the line between light and shadows, particularly our own shadows we'd rather not illuminate. The mysterious Genevieve says her business is shadows and from his first visit to her, Ritter is on a journey to his past, reclaiming bits of himself he's buried over the years. At the same time, he appears to be losing other parts of himself, and this blurring of boundaries between apparently oppositional definitions of identity is a continuing thread of the novel and its most successful theme.

The language in this part of the book is delicious. Waking up after a stormy night, the detective says, "The storm had cleared the air but not my mind or the inside of my apartment.
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