Book Review: Prime Suspects

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Prime Suspects by Jim Berheimer

Homicide detective David Bagini awakens on a strange world only to discover he is, in fact, the forty-second clone of the Bagini line. Having no memories of why his Prime entered into a clone contract, he wants answers.

The first problem is his Prime has been murdered and Bagini Forty-Two is now in charge of the investigation.

The second problem is all the clues point at one of his fellow clones and they already know all his tricks.

How can he solve his own murder when all the suspects have his name and face?

 

MY REVIEW

**At last, something to go with Caves of Steel on my shelves**

Prime Suspects secures a place alongside Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov in the sci-fi-mystery genre. An extremely well-done mix, mingling the police procedural and the science fiction in equal parts. Keeps one guessing to the end, but provides all the clues. A reader is right beside the detective gathering the clues and learning the world until only one possibility is left.

Jim Bernheimer‘s trademark snarky main character gets a little old in this particular book because, well, it is the distinguishing characteristic of so many of the characters, an inherent aspect of a clone story. I am pleased to see the clones remain close in personality, yet each develops as a unique person as well. The delightful comedic snarkiness of Confessions of a D-List Supervillain takes on a Noir overtone in this novel.

Worldbuilding – Oh, the sociological worldbuilding in this story is absolutely awesome. Identical twins raised apart will each develop along similar patterns; identical twins raised together will deliberately work to differentiate themselves through dress, hair and hobbies. Prime Suspects’ world shows what happens when an individualistic person suddenly is faced with dozens of twins.

And Jim takes the worldbuilding to a second level. For psychology – the struggle for ego in the detectives is worse than the waitresses because the police must work closely together instead of in isolated restaurants. For sociology – In a society without children and without elders, rampant college behavior dominates as the clones struggle to define themselves. For Social-Psychology – In a world without advancement or dreams, the clones face years of therapy, depression, and escapism.

Prime Suspects works well a police procedural, and the mystery is solid. But the story truly shines as a science fiction speculation about how a clone society might function.

(bought at a Convention from author’s booth at full price)

Flash: Worth the Risk

Cup Of Coffee Stock Photo

Image Courtesy of Carlos Porto at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The bell attached to the doorsill rang as yet another stranger entered the busy coffee shop. Shirley eyes were drawn irresistibly to evaluate the new entrant. She really hoped this was worth the risk she had taken. The most recent arrival was a teenager who had no business being in a coffee shop except as an employee.

Frank had come across her on Facebook a year ago today. On the anniversary of the contact, they were going to meet again for the first time. His wife had died of cancer a while ago, so his long-distance electronic support when her husband died a few months back was exactly perfect.

The bell chimed again and this time it was Frank. Less hair than before, but the trim frame built for track and soccer matched the pictures on his Timeline. People can lie so easily on the web, she sighed into her coffee to see he was as handsome as she remembered.

His brown eyes scanned the room. They settled on each single occupant table for a moment before coming to rest on her. He mouthed “Hello” like they used to do in high school when they dated. After placing his order, Frank came over to join her.

An hour of laughter and earnest talk followed. Then he walked her to her car and kissed her hand, saying goodbye for now. Starting her Cadillac, Shirley made her way back to the Interstate. Definitely worth, the risk, she thought to herself.

Her husband had been a fat, lazy coach potato so no autopsy was done after his apparent heart attack. With his body cremated and ashes scatted, no one would ever know better. Frank might end up being a disappointment, but it was worth the risk to try to find love again.

(299 words – first published 11/21/2012; republished new blog format 8/7/2016)

Book Review: The Tentacle Affaire

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The Tentacle Affaire by Jeanne Adams

She doesn’t believe in magic.

When human Slip Traveler Cait Brennan’s routine mission to retrieve a lost interstellar pet goes FUBAR, she ends up hip-deep in a plot to kill five US Senators that puts Earth’s entire population at risk. If she can’t uncover who’s behind the conspiracy and keep her alien employers a secret, she’ll be terminated—permanently.

He doesn’t believe in aliens.

Haunted by a devastating failure in another city, magical Enforcer Aiden Bayliss is relentless in protecting the DC area from dark entities. He’ll destroy the powerful force that’s taking out key politicians, whoever—or whatever—it is. And, in spite of the white-hot attraction sizzling between them, his main suspect is one curvy mystery named Cait.

With everything Aiden believes in question, and Cait squared off against a deadly assassin, both must choose. Uphold their oaths and lose each other forever, or stand together and die.

 

MY REVIEW

A sci-fi urban-fantasy romance police procedural. Yep, a mashup of genres. She works for aliens, he works for wizards, separately they keep the peace and secrets, together they need to solve a string of murders and fight their attraction.

While not really sold as a romance, the book has more the feel of that genre than the billed “Urban Fantasy.” But it is, unquestionably, both in strong measure. Initially the magic and aliens don’t mix, the characters had already accepted one huge change in their reality, accepting a second is not easy. But far too soon (I personally would have loved to have more friction before romantic fire), assassins, political intrigue, nosy neighbors, and abandoned pets (capable of destroying the entire Chesapeake water system) prove that it doesn’t matter what you believe, reality is real whether you are dodging a magic death bolt or alien ray run.

Clearly the start of a series, I look forward to the next one.

Book Review: Legion: Skin Deep (Legion #2)

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Legion: Skin Deep by Brandon Sanderson

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, Stephen Leeds is back in a new, double-length novella that Library Journal says has “the pulse of a thriller and the hook of a fascinating hero balancing on the edge of psychosis.”

It’s not his own genius that Stephen Leeds gets hired for. Clients want to tap into the imaginary experts that populate his mind—and it’s getting a bit crowded in there.

Now Stephen and his internal team of “aspects” have been hired to track down a stolen corpse—but it’s not the corpse that’s important, it’s what the corpse knows. The biotechnology company he worked for believes he encoded top-secret information in his DNA before he died, and if it falls into the wrong hands, that will mean disaster.

Meanwhile, Stephen’s uneasy peace with his own hallucinations is beginning to fray at the edges, as he strives to understand how one of them could possibly have used Stephen’s hand to shoot a real gun during the previous case. And some of those hallucinations think they know better than Stephen just how many aspects his mind should make room for. How long will he be able to hold himself together?

 

MY REVIEW

As good as Legion (#1), this sequel continues to follow Stephen Leeds through another mystery. Not certain if this can be called a fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery genre – most likely mystery. Has the feel of a fantasy from the main character talking to ghosts – or is it sci-fi with additional programming in his brain. I guess last one felt more fantasy because of the religious pictures and this one is more sci-fi because of the cellular storage.

Anyway, who cares about compartmentalizing genres – that is just crazy talk. Like trying to compartmentalizing learning into 47 different personalities.

Great story, again the mystery unfolds in such a way you feel you got all the information you needed to solve the mystery before the reveal happens. No cheating on secret evidence the character finds but doesn’t share with the reader.

I would love more on this series, since I want a conclusion and a prequel and … well everything more. Unfortunately this is one of the stories Mr. Sanderson fits in between his contracted (and paid for) books. Here’s hoping he gets lots more plane rides where he can’t use his laptop with his official work in progress.

Flash: Coffee Urn

Coffee Pot by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Image courtesy of the Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec Foundation
Painting entitled: Coffee Pot
Shared under the Creative Commons attribution

Coffee. Warm, wonderful, life-giving coffee.

The silver urn bathed in the late morning sun, alone on the banquet table, steam curling from the lip. The steam barely visible to my unfocused eyes but glorious all the same.

Hot caffeine. The motion of my life’s blood. The function of my synapses.

Throbbing, my head ravaged me for last night. My tongue ached for the Columbia Black to spill over the cotton-parched muscle, burning away … burning away everything. If only there was a mug.

If only I could move my arms.

I twisted my shoulders to see how tight the bindings were.

My dry tongue pressed against whatever was stuck in my mouth preventing me from screaming, adhering to the terrycloth fiber. Blood and sweat-sock duked it out for control of my taste buds. I think the blood is mine; at least one tooth is loose. So much for the extensive orthodontic work my parents paid for during my teenage years.

Bile rose from the flavors but I manage to dry swallow it back down.

Did they, whoever they were, leave the urn as torture? For torture it was to have coffee so close and so far.

(words 196 – first published 3/27/2016)