Select one of the keywords
You've Got Murder    by Donna Andrews order for
You've Got Murder
by Donna Andrews
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback
* * *   Reviewed by G. Hall

The future is now and computers are in charge. At least one is in Donna Andrew's wonderfully clever new novel You've Got Murder. Andrews has written several books before and her debut Murder Among Peacocks won the Malice Domestic Best First Mystery Agatha several years ago. However, this book is a real change of pace from her earlier novels.

The sleuth is Turing Hopper named after 'Alan Turing, one of the pioneers in the science of artificial intelligence, and Grace Hopper, one of the most famous women in the early days of computers'. Turing is an Artificial Intelligence Personality or AIP. She (Turing is always referred to with a female pronoun), works for Universal Library (UL) as a researcher. Leagues beyond a search engine, she has been programmed to be an active partner in any research that customers need, and has continuously learned and evolved to the point that she has reached a degree of sentience.

The mystery starts when Turing's designer Zack disappears without any notice. Turing uses her formidable skills to search for any electronic trace of his whereabouts and finds none. As the days pass she becomes more and more concerned. Eventually she enlists two human allies, the young programmer Tim and middle-aged secretary Maude, both of whom are UL employees she has helped in the past.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is Turing's personality (developed by Zack) and her clever wit. It is also fun to see her develop humility as she realizes that even the best of AIPs have limitations. Her human cohorts are also nicely done. In a clever turnabout on the expected, Maude proves especially adept at handling the mechanical and detecting tasks assigned by Turing, while Tim is more timid and bumbling. I will leave to the computer experts to decide whether everything Turing manages is plausible. In today's world of security cameras and the recording of every detail of one's life on computers, the cyber world does seem to be a place where Big Brother exists and privacy is a thing of the past.

As team members investigate Zack's disappearance, they discover all sorts of skulduggery at UL which may even threaten the future of the AIPs, and so the chase is on. The best part is when the trio has to venture out of the UL facilities. Turing has downloaded herself onto a portable, robot-like device equipped with cameras. During a drive through the countryside to locate Zack, Turing's cameras are overwhelmed with sensory impressions, so much more than she receives in the normal confines of her computer room. While the others admire the scenic forested landscape, Turing says of trees, 'to me they were like the mountains, just another obstacle cutting off my wireless modem from any possible signal'. Really the ultimate geek!

Andrews has created a superb cyber-mystery in You've Got Murder and it will likely win the Best Mystery Agatha for which the author is nominated at this year's Malice Domestic. It will be richly deserved. We can only hope to read more about Turing in the future.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more SF books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews