Posts Tagged ‘Murder’

The Real Town Murders by Adam Roberts

September 6, 2017 - 6:26 pm No Comments

The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts

Published by Gollancz on 24th August 2017

230 pages

Reviewed by Chris Stocks

Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, where most people spend all their time in a fully immersive successor to the internet, known as Shine. However, Alma’s partner has been infected with a genetically-engineered lipid phage, which renders her bed-bound. Alma must treat her within a five-minute window every four hours or she will die. Consequently, Alma is one of the few people still living wholly in the real world.

Alma is assigned to a murder investigation at an automated car factory. A body has been found in the boot of a newly assembled car – though the CCTV footage shows there was no body present at any point in the assembly process.

She is then warned off the case by a government agent, who is subsequently killed. Now a suspect, Alma must go on the run, evade arrest, avoid the machinations of political conspirators and solve the impossible-seeming murder – as well as return home every four hours to treat her partner! This latter requirement adds an extra layer of dramatic tension to what might otherwise have turned into an extended series of chase sequences.

The near-future setting is convincing. The streets are almost deserted, as most people live in the Shine. Most pedestrians are somnambulant figures dressed in Mesh suits that take their bodies for walks to avoid muscular atrophy, whilst their minds are in the Shine – a high-tech version of The Wrong Trousers! AIs and nanotechnology are used to keep the country ticking over, but the overall impression is of decay. Indeed, the underlying political conspiracy involves different government factions who either want everyone to live permanently in the Shine or to tempt Shine users back to the real world.

This is an exciting, fast-paced and often darkly comic thriller, with all the twists and turns of an Alfred Hitchcock film, albeit in a futuristic setting. Indeed, there are deliberate nods to Hitchcock throughout. Some chapter titles allude to Hitchcock films – “Dial ‘C’ for Caring”, “Strangers on the Terrain”, for example. There are also more overt references. One passage features an attack by a swarm of small drones that could have come straight out of The Birds. Another is a tense chase scene set amongst the nanobot-sculpted faces of famous Britons (William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill etc.) that now adorn the White Cliffs of Dover – an allusion to the Mount Rushmore scene in North by North-West. The great director himself even makes a small cameo – as is only right and proper!

There are also numerous references to other works. Alma at one point gets into an amusing argument with the low-grade AI running her front door about whether it should admit her or not. This reminded me of a very similar scene from the Philip K. Dick novel, Ubik. I also spotted passing references to Catch 22, The Princess Bride and The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy amongst others – and I’m sure I missed many more.

In summary, I really enjoyed Adam Robert’s latest novel and can thoroughly recommend it. It is an intriguing thriller as well as referencing enough Hitchcock films and SF classics to satisfy the discerning fan of both genres.

Mayhem Book Launch

May 1, 2013 - 10:04 pm 2 Comments

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I was delighted and privileged to be asked along to the launch party for Sarah Pinborough’s brand new book from Jo Fletcher Books Mayhem. The novel, which is set between 1886 and 1889, takes place in the background to the Jack the Ripper murders whilst another fiend was stalking London. These were the Torso Murders, and it started with a mutilated female torso being found on the footsteps of a church. And the scariest part about this novel? It’s based on fact. Whilst Jack sought fame and notoriety, the brute behind the torso murders kept secrets to his/her identity hidden, though this creature like Jack, was said to have knowledge of human anatomy.

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So it was on a rather sunny Tuesday evening that a number of us gathered at the Prospect of Whitby for drinks to celebrate this new novel by Sarah Pinborough. There we took the chance to chat to editors, publicists and like-minded bloggers or reviewers who joined Sarah to launch the book.
This was followed soon after by a jaunt across the road to the Wapping Project, an art gallery/restaurant that served up a solid supply of vino then canapés whilst we chatted, listened to Sarah introduce the origins of her book and generally mingled snapping photos.

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In the midst of mingling it was great to meet horror editor Steve Jones, who favoured my Fringeworks partner Adrian Middleton and I with enthusiasm for an idea we’d been considering. On the back of the Steampunk Sherlock Holmes books we’re releasing over the coming year, discussion had arisen about Holmes vs. Zombies (as you do) to which suggestion Steve had enthused, declaring it as a ‘no brainer’ pardon the pun, even offering us a cover quote. We were ecstatic of course, so watch this space for further news. Steve was also on hand to offer artistic advice on the photos and to pour the wine, him being an ex bar person, like myself.

Amongst the guests and hosts I got to also congratulate Sarah who was bubbly and enthusiastic, as always, particularly upon telling me that this September she’ll be in Belfast interviewing some of the cast of Game of Thrones. Fantastic. I also spent time with Jo Fletcher herself, an innovative publisher who definitely has her finger on the pulse when it comes to choosing new books and writers.
The experience was amazing, Jo and Lucy from Jo Fletcher books were wonderful hosts, and the whole day (including introducing Sarah to my Sherlock Holmes rubber duckie) will remain a very fond memory.
To retain the memory on my return to dear old Brum I dived into Sarah’s Mayhem, which I’ll be reviewing in a few days.