Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying.
Alma’s partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misses the 5 minute window her lover will die. She is one of the few not to access the Shine.
So when Alma is called to an automated car factory to be shown an impossible death and finds herself caught up in a political coup, she knows that getting too deep may leave her unable to get home.
What follows is a fast-paced Hitchcockian thriller as Alma evades arrest, digs into the conspiracy, and tries to work out how on earth a dead body appeared in the boot of a freshly-made car in a fully-automated factory.
The Real-Town Murders is thoughful, clever and effortless fiction that successfully blends hardboiled noir with near-future scifi to create a rich, rewarding story. Highly recommended.
The kind of elegantly playful fun at which Roberts, almost routinely it seems, excels.
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 Marvelous.
A gleeful homage to future noir.
Gripping and ingenious.
The sort of chase thriller that Hitchcock used to film.
As ever, Roberts's use of the genre to explicate ideas - the allure of virtual reality and the consequent aff ectless society - is done with grace and economy, and what might have been a grim read is leavened by moments of irreverent black humour.
An antic collision of Agatha Christie and British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror... Smart, deliciously witty and immensely engaging, it is Roberts at his playful best.