In a future that feels too-close-for-comfort, the majority of the British population are happily plugged into an all-immersive successor to the internet called Shine. Most of the populace never leave their homes and, even when they do, they remain connected to Shine even while their physical bodies are going for a walk. Meanwhile, robotics and AI have taken over almost all human duties, and despite the PR feeds hysterically insisting that the UK! is OK! and the White Cliffs of Dover having been sculpted into the faces of famous Brits (including Shakespeare and John Lennon) a la Mount Rushmore, the country is in a dangerous state of decay.
Alma is more aware of that decay than most people. Still, she has resisted the joys of Shine because the decaying world still seems like a much less sinister place in which to live. Until today that is. Because today Alma has been called to an automated car factory where humans do not enter, and where a dead body has inexplicably been discovered in the trunk of a newly-built car. All the security feeds show the body could not have been placed inside the car while the vehicle was being constructed but, still, here he is. And, even more inexplicably, his insides have been puréed into mush.
But Alma has additional problems. She is a private detective whose partner is gravely ill, affected by a kind of chameleonic malware-virus that means she will die if Alma doesn’t treat her every four hours and, for nefariously ingenious reasons, Alma is the only person qualified to do that job. But the ‘body in the trunk’ mystery has stirred up dark forces at the highest governmental levels, and they will stop at nothing to end Alma’s investigation. Now Alma is on the run and unable to get back home, the body count is mounting, and the countdown on her partner’s life has begun ticking.
The Real-Town Murders is a fantastic future-noir thriller that reads like a gloriously entertaining mash-up of North by Northwest, I-Robot and The Thirty-Nine Steps. It’s an exciting read that isn’t only an affectionate homage to the legendary Alfred Hitchcock - who even makes a brief uncredited appearance in the story – it’s also a thoughtful and disturbing commentary on where our society may be headed, with sharp dialogue, prose that pops off the page like gunshots, and a delicious jeopardy / mystery at its centre. So what if some of the Hitchcock allusions are overplayed? This is witty, smart, cleverly structured and, like the master’s finest films, hooks the reader from the opening moments and never lets go. Dial M for Marvellous.
THE REAL-TOWN MURDERS / AUTHOR: ADAM ROBERTS / PUBLISHER: GOLLANCZ / RELEASE DATE: 24TH AUGUST