A Quantum Murder by Peter F Hamilton (Greg Mandel #2)

Dr Edward Kitchener, a brilliant researcher into quantum cosmology for the Event Horizon conglomerate... but no good to anybody now, lying dead with his lungs spread out on either side of his open chest. The security system at Launde Abbey was premier-grade, yet a mercenary could still have got through, and plenty of people anxious to stop Kitchener's work would pay the killer's fee. But why would a professional waste time in ritually slaughtering the target? Event Horizon needs to know fast, so Greg Mandel, psi-boosted ex-private eye, is enticed out of retirement to launch himself on a convoluted trail involving confrontation with a past which - according to Kitchener's theories - might never have happened.

A Quantum Murder is one of space-opera legend Peter F Hamilton’s first novels, published over 20 years ago now, back in 1994. The second of his George Mandel series, it has a very different feel to the vast galaxy-stretching behemoths of The Night’s Dawn trilogy that he would go on to write, instead focusing on a post-communist 21st Century England getting back on its feet.

When a famous researcher is found murdered at the home that he shares with a select group of brilliant PhD students, it seems the motivation was to destroy his work, but why kill him so elaborately? Once the owner of Event Horizon, Julia Evans, a shrewd businesswoman as well as incredibly rich socialite, finds out that Dr Kitchener was working on secret work for her company, she brings in retired detective George Mandel to investigate what happened at Launde Abbey.

I really enjoyed A Quantum Murder and it makes a nice contrast to Hamilton’s more epic works. Great North Road is also a futuristic murder mystery involving a huge corporation and a detective trying to unravel what happened, but as good as it was, I felt it was a little overstretched. This though clocks in at just under 400 pages whilst still creating an alternative vision of England that is full of interesting technological developments, such as Mandel’s psi-boosted abilities that allow him to sense other people’s emotions. It’s funny too, managing to weave in humour alongside darker themes. What I like about Hamilton’s writing is that, as technical and sciency as it can sometimes be, the plots are also very much focused on human interaction and emotion so characters seem crisp and individual amongst the fancy technology. I particularly liked Julia, who despite being able to skewer bank managers at the board table is still vain enough to take revenge when a fashion commentator derides her choice of dress.

I think of A Quantum Murder as being a kind of futuristic Midsomer Murders, with a highly charismatic ageing researcher essentially acting as a cult leader; doing drugs and having sex with a group of young, impressionable students in a remote manor and being mysteriously murdered in a bizarre fashion. Was it merely jealousy? Or should you not believe what you see?

8/10 A kind of futuristic Midsomer Murders.

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