The Real Town Murders. Book Review

Gollancz, h/b, 240pp, £16.99
Reviewed by Elloise Hopkins

The AI tells private detective Alma that at no time during this car’s assembly did a human enter the factory floor. The AI is programmed not to lie, so it must be telling the truth. In which case, how did a human body end up in the boot of a brand new car, unseen by video footage, in a factory where every operation is entirely automated?

Called in to investigate the mysterious circumstances of the death, seeing the scene of the crime on video feed is not enough for Alma. She heads to the factory, even if the factory manager does not want her there, even if the body has already been removed, even if communication usually takes place in-feed or in-Shine.

The plot thickens with the appearance of Michelangela, a stylish police operative with a high level clearance and an ID entirely hidden to Alma’s feed. Alma has no choice but to send her car home and accompany her new chaperone to the morgue where the darker truths of the mysterious death start to reveal themselves.

The Real Town Murders is a unique and enthralling take on the locked room mystery. Set in England in our near future, a time where the internet has developed into something far more time-consuming and damaging to life as we know it – the Shine – Alma’s case turns into an event-filled romp from clue to twist to antagonist to barrier, all with a ticking four-hourly deadline that must be met otherwise Alma’s partner will die.

Alma has a wonderfully dry and subtle sense of humour which carries her through the ups, downs, investigations and terrible twists, popping up to delight the reader in the midst of otherwise chaos and impending doom. The story is intelligently layered, successfully ambitious, and delivers a real sci-fi noir delight.