Good clues are all but useless if the detective collecting them isn’t paying attention. Luckily, none of these sleuths have that problem.
In “All She Can Be,” Vallon Drake has been recruited by the U.S. government to use her magical abilities to prevent other people with similar powers from suddenly changing the landscape. One errant thought can create a mountain where there used to be a meadow in this universe, and the consequences of making these kinds of changes can be quite serious. Smooth writing and intricate world-building made this tale stick out immediately to me. I was especially intrigued by how quickly the glaring problems of living in a society where a small percentage of people have these abilities was sketched out before the plot picked up speed.
There were several instances in which I encountered stories that contained a few too many characters for their length. “An Incursion of Mice” is a good example of this tendency. Wall T is a pompous cat who attempts to rally the rest of his pride to figure out who has been eating their food. He’s the most cat-like narrator I’ve never met, but I had trouble keeping track of all of the other felines who he’s graciously decided to allow his human servants to keep.
I don’t normally recommend reading anthologies out of order, but “Containing Patient Zero” has such a creative and engaging premise that I highly recommend skipping ahead and checking it out first. When Dr. Joseph Nelson is summoned to figure out what happened with an execution that has gone terrible wrong, the evidence he uncovers points to a chilling conclusion. It’s difficult to discuss the details of this story without giving away spoilers, but it kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. I never wanted it to end and hope there is a sequel in the works for it!
Just about every entry in this collection works incredibly well as a stand-alone tale. I wasn’t familiar with any of the detectives who have also been featured in other books, but I was quickly able to leap into their worlds. This isn’t always an easy feat to pull off, so I was impressed to see it happen over and over again.
Fiction River: Fantastic Detectives is a great choice for anyone who loves it when genres are swirled together. It’s nominally more heavily influenced by mystery conventions and tropes, but the science fiction and fantasy elements in it are almost as strong.
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