THE ARK Deep-space de­tec­tion

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re­leased OUT NOW! 400 pages | Paper­back/ebook

Author Pa­trick s Tom­lin­son

Pub­lisher an­gry ro­bot

The Earth has been de­stroyed, and hu­man­ity re­duced to 50,000 souls on a gi­ant space­ship, but peo­ple still need de­tec­tives. Bryan Ben­son is part of the po­lice force on the epony­mous craft, near the end of its two-cen­tury jour­ney to a new plan­e­tary home. He’s pre­sented with a miss­ing-man case which in­volves Monet paint­ings, anony­mous as­sas­sins, class ten­sions and se­crets in the Ark’s dark depths.

Much of the first half is highly en­joy­able, a light­weight but smart mashup of trad space opera and trad de­tect­ing. But the prob­lems mul­ti­ply, with ter­ri­bly cheesy di­a­logue, an over­pro­tracted mys­tery, some very con­ve­nient clues and a prob­lem of scale. With hu­man­ity’s fate about to be de­cided, it’s hard to stay riv­eted by Ben­son’s drawn-out in­ves­ti­ga­tion, de­spite his con­vic­tion that the two are con­nected. Per­versely, when there’s a mas­sive 9/11-style dis­as­ter, it feels in­de­cently skimmed over as the plot fi­nally speeds up.

Ben­son him­self is a fairly multi-di­men­sional hero, but other char­ac­ters vary; a fear­some old-woman mu­seum cu­ra­tor is good fun, while an un­der­age Asian “tart with a heart” is a bad mis­step. But the fi­nal wrap-up is sat­is­fy­ing, de­spite ob­vi­ous hooks for next year’s se­quel. An­drew Os­mond

The plot in­volves the pis­tol used to kill Arch­duke Fer­di­nand, now prop­erty of the Vi­enna Mu­seum of Mil­i­tary His­tory.

Xxxxxx xxxx xxxxxxx xxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx Be­hold the world’s least com­fort­able arm­chair.

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