Private detective Conrad Metcalf finds himself the victim of an official inquisition when the murder of a former client and an obvious cover-up attempt lead him into dangerous political territory. Set in a near-future where only police and detectives are licensed to ask questions and where drugs to suppress memory are commonplace, this first novel imparts a new meaning to the word mystery . Spare prose and tight plotting create a taut sf thriller that should appeal to both sf and mystery fans.
In a near-future Oakland, both animals and infants routinely speak and behave like adult humans thanks to "evolution therapy," and Conrad Metcalf is a jaded private investigator whose latest case pits him against police and gangsters alike when his most recent client, a wealthy urologist, is found murdered. After the prime suspect, already condemned and scheduled for long-term hibernation, convinces Metcalf he's innocent, the case gives Metcalf's gumshoe instincts a workout, leading him down a meandering trail upon which he meets the victim's widow and an evolved baby who may or may not be hers and discovers a sinister blueprint for a backroom barracks designed to house other evolved babies. Lethem's first novel is a sparkling pastiche of Chandleresque detective fiction displaced to an almost comical postmodern landscape. Amid its smartly delivered first-person narration and crackling dialogue, even a tough-talking kangaroo that intermittently tangles with Metcalf seems plausible. An outstanding debut for a welcome new voice in both sf and mysteries.
PRAISE FOR GUN, WITH OCCASIONAL MUSIC
"Marries Chandler's style and Philip K. Dick's vision . . . An audaciously assured first novel."-Newsweek
"Marvelous . . . Stylish, intelligent, darkly humorous and highly readable entertainment."-San Francisco Examiner
PRAISE FOR MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN
"The best novel of the year . . . Utterly original and deeply moving."-Esquire
"Philip Marlowe would blush. And tip his fedora."-Newsweek