Fractured Lives by Russ Colchamiro


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This is the second in Russ Colchamiro’s Angela Hardwicke series.  She’s a private investigator in Eternity – the world responsible for maintaining and building the rest of the universe. 

The first book in the series, Crackle and Fire, struck me as the author’s attempt to process the terrifying shit-show that was America in 2020 – a universe of overblown imperial ambitions, a crazy narcissist sacrificing the planet unconcerned about anyone in it, everything burning, imminent armageddon, high level talks breaking down, the climate collapsing…  I guess things are calmer now (he wrote it before the latest American disasters) and we’d like to forget about all that, so this is a much more intimate, introspective, domestic scale of story.

Perhaps “America looks in the mirror and sees a once-high-achieving teenager who has lost part of her soul. Is it too late to get it back”?

Science fiction is always about here and now, of course, underneath the hype.  But this book seems to take that truth rather literally.  This ‘cosmic’ place seems more or less indistinguishable from any other US city where you might find a private investigator – there’s mean streets, corrupt developers, dodgy builders, train stations plastered with graffiti, students worrying about their grades, pompous art critics at gala dinners, money-grabbing businessmen…  True, the university students are designing galaxies and behind the corruption there’s sinister technology that you can’t yet buy at the Apple Store – but really, the sci-fi setting doesn’t do much work here.

Angela is billed as the best PI in town, but personally I’d never hire her – way too much personal baggage and neurosis!  In the first book she was all over the place because she’d lost custody of her child due to her overwork and substance misuse (that old trope of detective fiction…) and for my taste she seemed a bit too easily distracted by the frisson of encounters with other sexy women.  In this one she’s got her kid back and there’s lots of weighty underlining of her proper maternal credentials (Come back motherhood and apple pie!) but motherhood has gone a bit wrong and she can’t encounter the sulky teenage victim of the current crime without getting triggered into whole chapters of anxst about her own troubled girlhood and reproductive mishaps, and she’s chosen a side-kick whom she also feels obliged to mother.  And to make matters worse, her long-lost baby-papa has turned up from nowhere, and wants to get involved in the parenting of her kid, and quite frankly keeping up with a career with all this going on is really a bit much for the poor woman.

I’m not sure I’m convinced by Mr Colchamiro’s attempt to inject a bit of optimism into this exercise in social realism, but hey, it’s only a novel really. So thank goodness for the arrival of a splendid older lady with great personal style and a can-do approach to disability.  Otherwise we’d all be going down the cosmic plug-hole, and that would never do…

De Gevallene, September 2021

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I wrote this review as part of a Blackthorn Book Tour. The views expressed in it are my own and my rating is independent.

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