A sci-fi crime novel introduces a private eye up against revolutionary technology.
In near-future Los Angeles, people have implants that allow them to communicate telepathically with technology—though these are as susceptible to malware as their antecedent PCs—but some things are still done the old-fashioned way. Licensed private investigator Guy Rosen is all about the thrill of the chase, and he loves nothing so much as a good mystery. The sudden death of tech mogul Emilio Cassano, however, may be more than even Guy can handle. Emilio’s police-averse brother, Claud, hires Guy and his partners to prove that Emilio’s volatile son, Juan, is behind the murder. Guy prefers to keep an open mind, considering all of the Cassano family members and allowing himself to fall under Juan’s tragic magnetism. “We could have gone to the stars,” opines Juan of humanity’s follies, “but instead we invented a better pair of glasses.” When Juan unexpectedly kills a member of Guy’s team in cold blood, the gumshoe is forced to reconsider his position. The Cassano case goes much deeper than he realized, and Guy must follow it into the heart of humans’ evolving notions of reality and identity. Ingle (A God to Fear, 2016, etc.) writes in a sly, immersive prose that mixes detective novel grit with cyberpunk philosophizing. “Our obsession with the supremacy of the self has made our lives so competitive, difficult, and unbalanced that for our own identities to blur means that we can forget ourselves and rejoin the group,” muses one suspect, an acting teacher reprimanded for implanting his students with new identities. “It means freedom.” The rather formulaic first act quickly gives way to a much more intriguing story arc that owes more to Philip K. Dick than Raymond Chandler. Most of the characters still fit snugly into archetypes, but the world through which Ingle guides them is compelling enough to keep readers invested in their fates. The final act is a true page-turner, and the ending is as surprising as it is bold.
Starring an appealing gumshoe, this ambitious hybrid punches above its weight.