As a Harvard educated veteran of the New York publishing world, I expected Kanon to be an author of the highest caliber, and I was not disappointed. Smart, literate, with a vivid eye for period detail, as well as mood and nuance, he captured the hermetic world of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos during its super-secret days during World War II when the atom bomb was in its final days of preparation. Place surreptitious love affairs and a mysterious murder in the middle of this top secret facility, blend it with the landscape of New Mexico and mid-forties Santa Fe life style, throw a fish out of water a former police reporter turned Army Intelligence agent named Mike Connolly from Washington DC to investigate the murder, which has immediate security implications for the Manhattan Project, and you’ve got a tense, well-constructed story - a blend of a murder mystery and a spy thriller woven into one.
I’d also read Martin Cruz Smith’s Stallion Gate—a separate novel from his Arkady Renko stories (like Gorky Park)—set in the exact same time and place, yet with a completely different story and cast of characters. I was curious to see how the two might weave together in my mind’s eye, an interesting tandem set. Los Alamos is a well-constructed story, with vivid descriptions, complex characters with their own moral failings, set in a story that did not give anything away till the last page. A winner debut in my view. I’ve went on to read the next three of his novels following this high-quality, richly textured read.