Kobb (City of Ghosts, 2015) updates the noir detective novel with a high-tech plot.
Steven “Rocket” Malone, an ex-cop who left the police force in disgrace, is now something called a “collector.” In this near-future Washington, D.C., the wealthy pay millions to have chips implanted that record their memories. When they die, Malone and his partner, Jack Bowman, retrieve the chips for their employer, the Infinity Corporation, where technicians return the recorded memories to the deceased’s family. Usually, the “chipped” die from natural causes, but this time it’s murder. Someone shredded two victims in a dark alley using a needle gun, and, to make matters worse, one of the deceased is missing his head, along with his chip. The plot thickens when, later that night, Selene Belle asks Malone and Bowman to sell her the missing chip when they find it. It seems that she was having an affair with the dead man, and she thinks that the murderer will blackmail her by threatening to reveal the chip’s memories. Malone doesn’t trust her, of course, and Selene isn’t the only one who wants that chip; he soon receives two more offers, each more generous than the last. It’s beginning to look like he’ll be able to pay off the heavy gambling debts he owes. Unfortunately, bodies soon start to pile up, beginning with Malone’s partner. Malone must figure out the mystery before he winds up dead or possibly arrested: “I wasn’t about to be a patsy in whatever scheme was going on,” he thinks. The author’s slightly dystopian version of the nation’s capital creates a believably bleak setting, and the high-tech angle adds a contemporary twist to a traditional plot. That said, Kobb could have explored its possibilities more fully; instead, he falls back on the well-worn tropes of the noir novel (“I could tell she was trouble the moment I saw her”). Malone is an agreeable narrator, though, who’s always ready with a quip, and readers will likely return for more of this series.
A sci-fi mystery with a 21st-century twist that will please fans of traditional hard-boiled crime.