Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Midnight Haul by Max Allan Collins (environmental mystery)

This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on Ex Libris Reviews. Copyright 2006. Reprinted with permission.

Though I usually enjoy something about every Max Allan Collins novel I read, Midnight Haul was just a disappointment all around. The title led me to believe that it was a nighttime bank heist novel when what actually lay between the covers was a sociological, environmental activist novel about the dumping of toxic waste.

This was probably groundbreaking news when Midnight Haul was published in 1986 (the same year as Collins's much better novel, The Million-Dollar Wound), but it doesn't have enough else going for it to be anything other than a passable time filler.

When Crane's fiancée Mary Beth commits suicide, a door opens involving the local Kemco factory and four other suicides in the same town that year (we are told repeatedly that this is ten times the national average) and how they were all Kemco employees. Soon, Crane meets Boone, whose husband works at the plant and who is writing a book on the environmental dangers being perpetrated by Kemco.

Conspiracy theories abound in Midnight Haul, where a thin plot is stretched to novel length. Collins does manage to create some believable characters, but his "fact-based" original storyline does not compare to the more realistic historical fiction he has done better elsewhere.

(Perhaps if Nathan Heller had investigated Love Canal...)

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