Book Review : Iain Ryan - Civil Twilight (2017)
Every good thing has to end. If it doesn't, it'll go on and on and eventually start sucking. Countless television shows went on for too long because they were still profitable and it ended up tarnishing their legacy. I could've taken twenty Tunnel Island novels from Australian crime writer Iain Ryan, but I know better. Civil Twilight is technically the last novel in this series (or in this "arc", whatever) and I am going to sorely miss my two favorite rotten cops in recent years Laura Romano and Jim Harris. This dirty duo did go out with a bang, though. Civil Twilight might not be the best novel in the series, but it's by far the craziest.
Civil Twilight begins the only way a Tunnel Island novel can: with an inexplicably gruesome murder. This time, a visiting businessman is found swinging from a tree in a...well, sorry state. Someone put him trough the wringer before putting him out of his misery. The investigation lead them to a local rapper named Pin, who Romano develops a relationship to. Could he be her road to redemption? Nothing is ever that easy on Tunnel Island. What once was an important man died with a shitload of money and that money is gone. Everybody scrambles for a pieces of the pie, conveniently overlooking the bigger picture and exposing themselves to needless dangers.
This is a very different novel from its predecessor Harsh Recovery. It takes a lot of risks, which is something I can appreciate. See, the mental state of Jim Harris and Laura Romano (especially Harris') is gradually decaying over the course of Four Days, Drainland and Harsh Recovery and reality is starting to come undone in Civil Twilight. The demons Harris is beginning a relationship with in Harsh Recovery are present throughout the entirety of this book. I've compared Iain Ryan's writing style to James Ellroy meets True Detective before and Civil Twilight might just be the most balanced example of that. This might make you smile, but: it has a very particular psychosphere.
So, what gives Civil Twilight such a powerful sense of identity is primarily two things : First, its setting goes beyond Tunnel Island and police corruption, and involves a successful recording artist which pulls Jim Harris an Laura Romano from their comfort zone. There is also an important character in Civil Twilight which both reflects their wrongdoings on the island and strips them of the power the have over the place. The confrontations are way more psychological in this one, which is not going to please everybody. Civil Twilight can lose itself between the physical and the intellectual realm, which is both its blessing and its curse. It makes it the most original novel in the Tunnel Island series, but it's just just way too out there at times. It chronically strays from what made the series successful.
So, I'm telling you that Civil Twilight is the last novel in a series because it's the last one Iain Ryan wrote before branching off into completely different things. And it does feel like an ending, too. It stretches the Tunnel Island narrative just a little too far. Iain Ryan might rebound and come back with a vengeance and new inspiration, though. I don't know. Characters come and go, but an inferno like Tunnel Island lasts forever. I have to admit Civil Twilight is the novel I preferred the least in the series, but it doesn't say much. It's like having a least preferred flavor of chicken wings, you know? I still rather eat ranch chicken wings than pretty much anything else in life. Just read the fucking Tunnel Island novels, guys. It goes Four Days, Drainland, Harsh Recovery and Civil Twilight in order. You can thank me afterwards, as usual.