By Sarah Smith, Adult Services
They say combining two things you love can make them even better, like chocolate and peanut butter. While I do love peanut butter cups, I might prefer a book that skillfully mixes science fiction and mystery. I’ve recently had the good fortune to read two new books out this October that feature very different murder mysteries in outer space, and I thoroughly enjoyed both of them!
“Station Eternity” by Mur Lafferty
This is not author and podcaster Mur Lafferty’s first mystery-sci fi genre mashup, and as a reader I could tell how much she also loves these genres and their tropes. It’s hard to say too much about this particular story without giving away the big twists, but if you’ve ever wondered about sweet and innocent cozy mystery sleuths like Jessica Fletcher (of “Murder She Wrote” fame) who stumble into a new crime scene every other week, this is the book for you!
Mallory Viridian is haunted by the deaths that have followed her since childhood. The authorities on Earth don’t entirely believe that a witness to so many murders is truly innocent, no matter how many cases she helps them crack. Mallory applies for asylum on the alien space station Eternity with hope that living light years away from humanity, she might be able to escape her curse.
The worldbuilding of alien societies and technology is fascinating and has just the right level of detail. The mystery plot is absolutely twisted. You might be able to spot some of the clues, but I guarantee Lafferty will keep you guessing. There’s a colorful cast of characters, both human and not, with complex motivations and relationships. Best of all? It’s the first book of a new series!
“The Spare Man” by Mary Robinette Kowal
Mary Robinette Kowal has long been one of my favorite authors and her most recent novel does not disappoint. Kowal draws inspiration from Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora (from “The Thin Man”)—including an adorable dog named Gimlet!
The couple at the center of this mystery are the wealthy heiress engineer Tesla Crane and her retired detective husband Shal. The two have just set off on their honeymoon on a luxurious cruise ship traveling from Earth to Mars. Since both Tesla and Shal are relatively famous, they are traveling incognito to make their journey truly relaxing. But when they discover a murder victim outside of their cabin and Shal is accused of being the murderer, their anonymity is no longer a perk.
Tesla is a challenging character. The privilege of her wealth makes some of her actions very off-putting to anyone who’s ever worked customer service. But at the same time, the purpose behind her entitled attitude is to save her husband and to find a murderer. Tesla suffers from PTSD, reduced mobility, and terrible pain from a tragic laboratory accident several years ago; which is where her service dog Gimlet enters the story. As a reader, I rooted for Tesla, even as I was frustrated by how she sometimes worked against her own goals. It added a nice tension to an already excellent mystery.
One last detail, each chapter starts with a cocktail recipe (some classic, some invented by Kowal, and even some non-alcoholic). The cocktails fit the tone and setting of high-class leisure very well. I do not think there are plans to make this book into a series, though I would happily read more adventures set in this world!
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