I very recently read and loved Shovel Ready, the first Spademan novel, so I was not surprised at all to end up loving Near Enemy! (Yes, you read that right: this is a sequel. There could be spoilers for Shovel Ready below.)
Near Enemy begins very much the same way Shovel Ready began... and it also starts off much differently. The story begins with Spademan getting a call- just a name, no other info, no introductions, then a click. Spademan waits a few minutes for the money to clear his bank account, then begins looking for the person behind the name. That's the similarity. The difference? At the end of the day, Spademan now has a "family" to go home to! Mark has moved in with him, and he's also helping to look after Persephone and her daughter.
In Near Enemy, Spademan is supposed to "take care of" Lesser, a guy who creeps about in the limnosphere, peeping on other people's dreams. No one would miss a creep like that. However, when Spademan arrives at Lesser's apartment, he arrives at just the right moment, when Lesser wakes up screaming. He was creeping on a guy's nasty orgy fantasy when all of a sudden a woman in a burqa shows up and blows up the guy, killing him. Remember the rules from Shovel Ready? You're not supposed to be able to die in the limnosphere. Suddenly Lesser and Spademan are hearing reports of others getting blown up in the limnosphere by the same strange woman. Just as in Shovel Ready, Spademan is intrigued enough to keep Lesser alive and investigate these strange doings.
There are so many things to love about these books: they're super snarky (totally my favorite sense of humor), dystopian (taking place in a not-so-distant future after someone nuclear bombs NYC), and mysterious. Adam Sternbergh manages to keep me guessing all the way to the end!
I gave a very short excerpt in my review of Shovel Ready. Sternbergh uses the same composition tactics in this book- no quotation marks and no declaration of who's speaking. But it works! I wasn't sure about it at first, but I got used to it really quickly. And y'all, I'm someone who is usually overly bothered by unconventional composition. I read a book once in which the author would use two or even three exclamation points at the end of sentences and it totally distracted me from the entire point of the book. For whatever reason, Sternbergh's lack of quotation marks didn't distract me at all. It even feels right- the conversation in the book is very sparse, as is the landscape, so it seems perfect to have the physical type on the pages be sparse also.
I do so hope this turns into a whole mystery series. I've really come to like Spademan, and I want to hang out with him more. The mysteries in the first two books are so completely different from each other as well- no formulaic mystery here! In Near Enemy, the mystery lies with a female Middle Eastern suicide bomber in the limnosphere... kind of like terrorism 2.0. As I've mentioned, these mystery aspects to the story are really well plotted out, keeping the reader guessing. Spademan is a truly reluctant hero: who would guess that the hit man would turn detective/rescuer?
If I hadn't already given Shovel Ready five of five stars, I'd rate Near Enemy even higher than it. (Alas, not mathematically possible.) Perhaps because I already "knew" the main character, and was therefore all the more invested in his story? I would've never guessed that I'd enjoy two books with a hit man as the main character so much!