Monday, 17 July 2017

Matters Arising From the Identification of the Body by Simon Petrie

Matters Arising From the Identification of the Body by Simon Petrie is a science fiction crime novella set on Titan. It follows a public investigator looking into the suicide of a young woman who opened her own helmet and exposed herself to Titan's atmosphere.

Tanja Morgenstein, daughter of a wealthy industrialist and a geochemist, is dead from exposure to Titan's lethal, chilled atmosphere, and Guerline Scarfe must determine why.

This novella blends hard-SF extrapolation with elements of contemporary crime fiction, to envisage a future human society in a hostile environment, in which a young woman's worst enemies may be those around her.

Scarfe's job is investigate the suicide and the reasons leading up to it. It's told as a police procedural with a solid science fictional setting as a back drop. Petrie has written several stories set on Titan (see my reviews of his short story collections, Rare Unsigned Copy and Difficult Second Album) but I got the impression that this version of Titan was more populated and hence the story is probably set a bit further into the future than those other stories.

As expected, the scientific background is something Petrie gets spot on in this novella. As well as a well-developed setting, I appreciated the additional layers to Scarf's life. She wasn't solely focussed on her job, she also had a family and a back story that wasn't directly related to her job or this particular case, which I appreciated. Matters Arising From the Identification of the Body was fully fleshed out, for all that it was a novella and didn't take me very long to read.

As far as the crime aspect went, I pretty much only read speculative fiction crime so my opinion is a little coloured by that. This ticked all my boxes though. The mystery elements were intrinsically tied to the science fictional setting and the "solution" followed logically from what the reader had been presented with. I did guess one aspect of the resolution, but not the full explanation, which was handled well, in my opinion.

I highly recommend Matters Arising From the Identification of the Body to fans of science fiction and mystery/crime stories. It is both a procedural and science fiction, but I expect it will appeal more to fans of the latter genre than the former. This was also a more series story than Petrie's other mystery series set on a space elevator, which is significantly more tongue-in-cheek. I am looking forward to reading more stories about Scarfe and set on Titan.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: June 2017, Peggy Bright Books
Series: Yes. The first in a series that will have at least one more instalment (there was an excerpt at the end of the book)
Format read: ePub
Source: Review copy courtesy of the author
Challenges: Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

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