Sleuthing noir in a grim near-future of genetic manipulation (those of mixed animal and human ancestry are “furs,” humans are “skins”), and artificial intelligence, from the author of the splendid Dogland (1997). Private investigator Chase “Max” Maxwell takes on a new client, Zoe Domingo, when she appears at his elbow just as he’s about to lose big time at the poker table. Problem: she's part jaguar—which makes her property in nearly every state in the Union. Zoe’s former owner, artificial intelligence researcher and abolitionist Janna Gold, has been murdered, and the police are trying to pin it on Zoe. Zoe insists that Gold was murdered by rogue copbots and a human-seeming artificial intelligence named Doyle; she herself escaped by activating an earring given her by Gold that froze the copbots’ programming. But who reprogrammed the copbots? Next, another human-seeming AI named Kris Blake (Max just enjoyed a torrid night with her) murders a prominent abolitionist, arranging matters so that Zoe and Max will be blamed. And then Max’s gangster acquaintances decide to relieve Max of the earring as payment for his gambling debts. An AI abolitionist, Oberon Chain, may have been replaced by a robot double. Finally, Max gets shot during an ambush in Crittertown; Zoe gets 30 years for murder. So: how can Max get Zoe out of jail and track down the real killer?
The ingredients—wisecracking gumshoe, gorgeous slinky heroine, blood-tingling action, ingenious plot twists—might be familiar, but Shetterly’s thoughtful, hard-edged remix is a winner.