The Reinvented Detective edited by Cat Rambo & Jennifer Brozek
As is typically the case for story anthologies in my experience, The Reinvented Detective, part of an anthology series edited by Cat Rambo and Jennifer Brozek, was a mixed bag, with stories ranging from excellent to good to flat at best.
All of the stories are set in the future, though the time spectrum runs from the relatively near-future to a few decades to a far-flung future of interstellar travel. Settings move from the “real world” to the virtual one (sometimes within the same story), and the detectives themselves vary wildly, from your usual hard-bitten human cynic to AIs to genetically engineered to robots/clones.
The short but sweet take is the book is worth a read overall, even if I’d only put eight of the nineteen stories into the good/excellent category. The book started out pretty strong, hit a real lull for me in the middle, then regained some momentum in the latter tales. A few specifics:
“The Best Justice Money Can Buy” by C.C. Finlay — Plotting was a bit predictable, but I quite liked the premise: a for-profit law enforcement/judicial system whereby police departments are self-funded by “asset forfeitures, arrest fees, jail fees, fines … If the victims had money, they would pay the police to pursue the criminal and the district attorney to prosecute. If the criminal had money, they would pay to get a more favorable result.” I wouldn’t have minded delving into the social/personal impact of such a system more.
“The Gardeners Mystery: Notes from a Journal” by Lisa Morton — Another mostly predictable plot (that was a common issue in the collection as a whole for me), but again, I liked the premise (a genetic caste-like system—think Gattaca if you’ve seen that movie) with an engaging main character and an effective close.
“Murder at the Westminster Dino Show” by Rosemary Claire Smith — Another one where the premise, bespoke bred miniature dinosaurs competing ala Best in Show save the judge is murdered, is better than the execution, which was pretty robotic in its mystery solving.
“The Unassembled” by Peter Clines — This was probably my favorite overall, tight, tense, and with strong characterization
“Color Me Dead” by E.J. Delaney — Another excellent story, this one done in the form of an old text adventure computer game. The detectives need to “play” via that format to solve the locked-room crime adds a nice dimension to the mystery rather than simply acting as a gimmick. Excellent execution.
“To Every Seed Their Own Body” by Guan Un — Another locked-room mystery, this one set on a “seedship,” a generation ship grown via “plant DNA infused with nanotech; trees dreaming themselves into spaceships.” An intriguing setting, an excellent character creation (the detective, called “The Translator”, is created in a pod and “seeded into a human body”), though again, and a strong close even if the solution was a bit predictable.
“In the Shadow of the Great Days” by Harry Turtledove — I didn’t care much for the mystery or its resolution, but Turtledove creates a wonderfully rich future world in not many pages, depicting a several-centuries-in-the-future Boston long changed by the impact of climate change and a character bemoaning how much knowledge “they” (we) had back in the “Great Days.”
“Gumshoe” by Carrie Harris — a short, bleak-but-good noir tale making use of classic noir characters and tropes.