A dark, futuristic thriller features a disgraced police detective who hunts not just a brutal criminal, but also the androids the culprit uses to kill humans.
After mistakenly shooting a government official’s son while working on a case with his then-partner and current girlfriend, Maddie, Jake is demoted to the police bureau’s “Geek Squad,” investigating offenses perpetrated by androids rather than humans. His latest assignment involves an android that was programmed to commit homicide, a killing by proxy known as “murder by Munchausen.” All evidence points to the victim’s ex-wife, a geneticist, as the mastermind behind the scheme, but it’s tough to prove that she paid for the lethal reprogramming of the android. As Jake struggles with his inquiry, Maddie, a rising star in the police department, gets handed a high-profile serial killer case. Her investigation takes a bewildering turn when the DNA evidence left at the crime scenes doesn’t match up with any living suspects. Soon Jake finds his probe overlapping with his girlfriend’s, and he races to get inside the mind of a heinous computer hacker to stop an android programmed to kill Maddie before it can find her. Bass (Untethered, 2016, etc.) has written a noirish tale set in the near future, in a world where androids roam the streets and are almost indistinguishable from the humans they serve. The first-person narrative moves briskly, packed with action and unexpected developments. But some parts of the plot beg for more details, such as the true identity of the hacker and the motive for the gruesome murders, which is hinted at but not explicitly revealed: “Droids malfunction and droids can be programmed to execute a crime, but to become a serial killer, there has to be a driving human passion that comes from somewhere deep and dark within a disturbed human psyche.” The book is also somewhat unpolished; minor spelling mistakes and other errors (for example, “The mutilation caught got my attention”) become distracting.
A fast-paced, entertaining, but incomplete sci-fi tale that could use a sequel to tie up several loose ends.