My rating: 2 of 5 stars
History repeats itself in The Night Season, when the Willamette River rises nearly as high as in 1948, when it swept away an entire town in less than an hour. Now the city of Portland itself is threatened, but there’s more than a flood to worry about when a series of drownings turn out to be murder by octopus. If you can swallow the idea that a serial killer would choose such a bizarre, troublesome method when a simple hypodermic would do, this isn’t a bad mystery. Detective Archie Sheridan has returned from an extended medical leave, and as he hunts for the psycho he must also battle the weather, which plays a major role in the book’s outcome. Tagging along as usual is journalist Susan Ward, who inadvertently serves as the murderer’s catalyst. For some reason, the cops tolerate her intrusiveness, and she makes discoveries without which they’d not be able to resolve the case, at least not as quickly.
As its title implies, this is a dark novel. The characters spend most of the time in sopping wet clothing, drenched either by the incessant rain or by their own rescue forays into the river. Archie and Susan are likable characters, quite natural in their personal quirks, reactions, and motivations. That sort of realism extends to the less prominent characters as well. Lamentably, the one exception in Night is the killer himself, of whom we learn little and see less, and I kept wondering how he managed not to fall prey to his own murder weapon. Also, it was never made clear why he kidnapped a child. Nevertheless, the police procedural part of the plot works, the atmosphere is bleak and ominous, and the ending is a dramatic one.