Join the discussion of “Science Fiction and Fantasy Murder Mysteries”
Hey, mystery fans! Looking for something good to read?
At the March 2023 Just Desserts meeting, 15 group members participated in a discussion of the increasingly popular trend of cross-genre publishing — in this case mystery stories with a Science Fiction or Fantasy setting and background. Participants were encouraged to visit the new (Dec 2022) booklist here on BookGuide — Science Fiction & Fantasy Murder Mysteries — for some suggestions of possible reads. The discussion was then held “round robin” style, with each participant given a chance to describe what they’d read and what their impression of it was. Only one attendee chose not to participate, while the rest read one or more titles that fell into the assigned reading category.
Few seemed to absolutely “hate” any of the titles they tried, and a few really enjoyed what they’d read. However, most of the group’s readers fell into the category of generally liking whatever they’d chosen to read but not really being engaged enough that they will continue with the series (or stand-alones) they sampled.
Here are the Science Fiction & Fantasy Murder Mysteries read by Just Desserts members for our March 2023 discussion, and each reader’s general reaction:
Scott read Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes (1981) involving corporate espionage and an accidental death at a high-tech amusement park where “gamers” can live out live-action role playing games, exploring the psychology of RPG participants. He also read Six Wakes and Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty, the first of which is basically a locked-room mystery featuring the revived clones of six crew members on a deep space colonization vessel, all of whom have been revived after their previous bodies all died violent but unexplained deaths…and their lifetimes of downloaded memories have gaps, meaning none of them know what happened to kill all six of them. The other Lafferty title involves a handful of contemporary humans interacting with multiple alien species on a distant living space station. One of the humans believes death follows her wherever she goes, but escaping to the other end of the galaxy didn’t stop the mysterious deaths. And Scott had just started The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal, sort of a Thin Man in Space, with a rich socialite and her new husband (and their ultra cute dog) getting involved in solving a series of murders on a stellar pleasure cruise to Mars. He enjoyed all four — Dream Park is one of his all-time favorite novels, which he’s read at least five times.
Cathy also read Six Wakes by Lafferty and enjoyed it.
Marlee read Naked in Death, the first of the near-future Eve Dallas police procedurals. She was somewhat interested, and found herself wondering what happened to the romantic relationship between Eve and her mysterious billionaire boyfriend Roarke — the series has 57 volumes so far, so she has plenty more to catch up with.
Cheryl, Vickie and Suzy all simultaneously tried the first book in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch, which has the alternating title Rivers of London (UK) and Midnight Riot (US). Vickie actually got a graphic novel format novella and was a bit lost, but after reading the first novel in the series and getting introductions to the characters, she enjoyed it. Cheryl liked it and will continue with more in the series, while Suzy wasn’t into the paranormal magic use.
Cathy Ann wasn’t quite finished with The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart, but was finding this complicated tale of a time traveler who’s become un-tethered in time, and must try to solve a murder when she’s the only one who can see the body.
Linda didn’t read a new book to match this month’s theme, but had read two not long along that fit this topic — The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, involving time travel, body-switching, and a complicated Agatha Christie-like murder at an English country estate. She also read Hugo-, Nebula- and Edgar-awarding winning The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon, which is an alternate history novel set in an Alaska which has become the Jewish homeland (instead of Israel), and follows a reluctant detective trying to solve a mysterious murder.
Diane, already a fan of Urban Fantasy novels with underlying mystery plots, reread the entire The Hollows series by Kim Harrison, featuring Rachel Morgan, a modern witch who’s also a bounty hunter, trying to keep the peace between the human and paranormal denizens of an alternate-history Cincinnati.
Mary read the 1963 novel All the Colors of Darkness by Lloyd Biggle Jr., the first novel in a series to feature futuristic private eye Jan Darzek. She enjoyed it enough read more in the series.
Donna read the first novel in Donna Andrews’s Turing Hopper series, You’ve Got Murder (which was the Just Desserts hiatus reading suggestion for Nov/Dec 2022). This series features and Artificial Intelligence Personality that must befriend some humans (to do her legwork) in order to find out why her human programmer has mysteriously disappeared. The series went on to have four volumes before the publisher chose to have Andrews stop writing any more of them.
Ladena, not normally a science fiction fan, tried Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, in which a man is essentially kidnapped from the reality he knows and placed into an alternate reality, in which everything is different. In his attempts to figure out a way back to the life he misses, he must determine which is the “real” reality, and what he’s willing to do to achieve the life he wants.
Deb tried a couple of novels from our list — Vitals by Robin Cook and Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey, but couldn’t get into either of them.
Christy read Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow. This Disney World fan enjoyed the futuristic tale of a high tech world in which a man is able to live in the future version of the theme park, but must solve the mystery when an unknown group attempts to disrupt the venerable park’s attractions (and maybe murder the narrator…which would be frustrating since it’s the fourth time he’s died and been brought back).
Charlotte read both The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun, two futuristic mystery novels (originally published back in the 1950s) featuring the partnering of R. Daneel Olivaw (a robot detective) with Elijah Baley (a reluctant human detective) by Isaac Asimov.
and finally, Rayma tried to read Tea From an Empty Cup by Pat Cadigan, but just couldn’t get into this complicated story of murder that may be reaching into the real world from a virtual reality gaming environment.
So…What did you think of the the concept of crossing mysteries with SciFi/Fantasy? What have you read that would fit into this category? Or do you prefer to avoid SF&F entirely?
Just Desserts returns on April 27th, with a discussion of the classic mystery The Mystery of Hunting’s End, by Nebraska’s own Mignon Eberhart, which is the 2023 One Book One Nebraska selected title!
Bethany Books Talk, April 21, 2017: Good Reads for Teens
Susan, Eiseley Branch Library’s teen specialist, discusses Good Reads for Teens.