Detective Birch Ritter is a man on the edge-of himself. His past is filled with secrets, shadows, guilt, and ghosts. Then a dubious police buddy he hasn't seen in a year introduces him to a mysterious woman who says her business is shadows. What she knows about what lies between the darkness and the light inside men is more than Ritter may want to find out, and much more than he can resist learning. It's said that to try to forget is to try to conceal, and concealing evidence is a crime. But maybe revelation is another kind of crime-against nature. Kris Saknussemm, the widely acclaimed author of the sci-fi smash Zanesville, now delves into another genre, and another world-a world where even the sunlight is shadowy and where deviancy is the norm. Private Midnight is a journey into the seedy, sexy, underbelly of life-crime noir for a new generation.

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.

From Booklist

Zanesville (2005) was praised as a brilliant sf satire depicting a post-apocalyptic American landscape. For his second novel, Saknussemm daringly switches gears for a complex work of noir detective fiction with supernatural overtones. Birch Ritter is a jaded precinct detective with too many ex-wives and dark secrets under his belt. While Ritter investigates a pair of bizarrely staged suicides, an old friend introduces him to an exotic woman, Genevieve, who seems to see right through Ritter’s hardened exterior to the troubled psyche lurking beneath. His sessions with Genevieve begin intriguingly enough, with a little harmless bondage, then transform into probing psychological games involving ancient mythology and alchemy. Suddenly, Ritter begins uncovering surprising wrinkles in his police cases as well as disturbing changes in his physiology that may reveal more about himself than he wants to know. Saknussemm’s jarring plot twists near the tale’s climax may mystify some, but there’s no doubting his ability to captivate readers with eerie atmospheric description and masterful storytelling. --Carl Hays

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.

About the Author

Kris Saknussemm is a writer, painter, and sculptor. The author of the novel Zanesville,  he has been a resident at the MacDowell Colony and is a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He divides his time between a rural property outside Melbourne and the West Coast of America.