The Real Town Murders by Adam Roberts
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.
A new novel from the author of Jack Glass, The Real-Town Murders is another Sherlock Holmes-style locked-room murder mystery story, but set in a future England where the majority of the population spend their lives in an online world called the Shine. Leaving themselves in the care of machines that walk their unconscious bodies around to prevent muscle wasting, R! Town, as Reading was rebranded, is a bland desert of identikit buildings, robots performing menial tasks and zombie walkers.
Alma though is one of the few who aren’t in the Shine. Her partner, Marguerite, infected with a virus that is genetically linked to Alma, requires her to personally treat her every four hours. This means that although she is digitally linked to the network, she can’t disappear like the rest into the world of the Shine. Instead, she works as a private detective, and is brought in to investigate how a body got into the boot of a car during its manufacture, when CCTV shows that no humans were on the factory floor.
As soon as she gets involved however, she gets warned off again. Then more murders occur, and she ends up tangled in political machinations that threaten not only her life, but may prevent her from getting back in time to save Marguerite.
I enjoy a murder mystery and I also enjoy speculative fiction, so this sounded like an interesting story in the style of Sam Peter’s From Darkest Skies, but rather than set on another planet in a distant future, is instead set in a near but still significantly different England. The Shine is a concept that’s been used before, people abandoning this world for one that’s inside their heads, but it’s the ‘real’ world that is the focus here. R! Town, a deeply painful piece of rebranding that tried to inject interest back in a rapidly obsolete reality, is a barely-inhabited wasteland that reminds me of vast, bland housing estates once hailed as the modern way of living, but which now look dated and forlorn. Automation has taken over the majority of services, and people are reluctant to physically engage any more when communication over the network, or life in the Shine, is quicker and more pleasant.
The murder mystery itself has plenty of twists and turns, with a healthy dose of government conspiracy, but the central core is how to keep Marguerite alive when she is too big to move, and nobody else can treat her apart from Alma, but she is on the run from police. It’s frantic and action-packed, and Alma has an entertainingly blunt approach to dealing with other people.
Ultimately however, as much as I found the world interesting, The Real-Town Murders didn’t quite blow me away. We never experience the Shine, because Alma can’t go into it, but that means that as a concept that is directly relevant to people’s actions it is never more than a vague other world that I imagined to look like Second Life. Who built it? Who runs it? What do people see in there? Sadly, despite having plenty of questions, I never felt its allure, and Alma seemed surprisingly uninterested in it despite the huge amount of stress she is under as a full time carer. The pull of this world I think would have been interesting to explore further, but then again you could argue that that isn’t the point of the book.
Overall there is some good imagery in it, though trying to explain what was really going on would be like explaining a Bourne film to somebody who’s never seen one, but it’s getting strong reviews on Goodreads so if you like a quick-paced mystery give it a go.
This The Real Town Murders book review was written by Cat Fitzpatrick
Have you read The Real Town Murders?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Real Town Murders reader reviews
7.5/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
On a remote jungle island, genetic engineers have created a dinosaur game park. An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now on...
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August
Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the kno...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Sixth World of Men
Walter E Mark
On the surface, the sixth world of men is a glorious world. It is a world of great technological advancement. It is a world that has been at peace for a hundred years. Whil...
The Lathe of Heaven
Ursula Le Guin
George Orr is a mild and unremarkable man who finds the world a less than pleasant place to live: seven billion people jostle for living space and food. But George dreams d...
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi...
The Chronicles of Fate and Choice
This is where it all began. Everything. Love, hate, good, evil, us and them. Before the Gods by KS Turner successfully breaks the genre rules to produce something unique, c...
A combination of previously unseen stories, favourites from Interzone and contributions to numerous anthologies, IMAGINED SLIGHTS showcases one of the most versatile and el...
A Scanner Darkly
Philip K Dick
Substance D is not known as Death for nothing. It is the most toxic drug ever to find its way on to the streets of LA. It destroys the links between the brain's two hem...
Beauty and Sadness
The successful writer Oki has reached middle age and is filled with regrets. He returns to Kyoto to find Otoko, a young woman with whom he had a terrible affair many years ...
Kikuji has been invited to a tea ceremony by a mistress of his dead father. He is shocked to find there the mistress's rival and successor, Mrs. Ota, and that the cerem...
Leila Fenech is dead. And so is her brother Dieter. But what's really pissing her off is how he sold his afterlife as part of an insurance scam and left her to pick up ...
The Shadow Year
In New York's Long Island, in the unpredictable decade of the 1960s, a young boy laments the approaching close of summer and the advent of sixth grade. Growing up in a ...
Dead Men Naked
After the sudden death of his best friend Neil, involving a 6-foot giant crow and quite some Tequila, Lou’s life takes an unexpected turn towards the impossible. As L...
This is an awesome concept with awesome characters and that familiar Sanderson style of writing. I feel like with all this awesomeness around the place, the plot never gets...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Best of 2016
Whitney H Murphy
As survivors in a ruined city, there are some realities we can’t escape. Or forget. Like the truth that our bodies don’t work anymore. We all know it—with ev...
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
Raithe, the God Killer, may have started the rebellion by killing a Fhrey, but long-standing enmities dividing the Rhunes make it all but impossible to unite against the common foe. And even if the clans can join forces, how will they defeat an enemy whose magical prowess renders them indistinguishable from gods?The answer lies across the...
A Time of Dread
The Ben-Elim, a race of warrior angels, once vanquished a mighty demon horde. Now they rule the Banished lands. But their dominion is brutally enforced and their ancient en...
The Last Dog on Earth
Adrian J Walker
Every dog has its day... And for Lineker, a happy go lucky mongrel from Peckham, the day the world ends is his: finally a chance to prove to his owner just how loyal he can...
The Shadow Crucible
Taking humanity back to their primordial beliefs and fears, Estella confronts Mikhail’s faith by revealing the true horror of the lucrative trade in human souls. All ...
The Dog Stars
Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's...
Beren and Luthien
Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien wil...
Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall - named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn h...