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A Borrowed Man    by Gene Wolfe order for
Borrowed Man
by Gene Wolfe
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2015 (2015)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I have long admired Gene Wolfe's mastery of the written word, as exemplified in his unique Wizard Knight and Soldier series. Now he brings us something different and just as unusual in A Borrowed Man, a blend of science fiction and mystery.

The PI in this twenty-second century mystery is E. A. Smythe, the clone of a mystery author who lives on a public library shelf - he's library property, not a legal human, and if he's not borrowed enough, he will be destroyed. So he's delighted when wealthy - and lovely - young Colette Coldbrook checks him out. His previous self wrote a book called Murder on Mars, a physical copy of which contains a secret she believes is the key to family riches. Her father has disappeared and was proclaimed dead and her brother has been murdered - why?

They go on quest together and, after some adventures, end up in her father's country house, which has a mysterious fourth floor, with suites whose doors cannot be opened - what could be inside? After they leave the house, Colette is kidnapped and Smythe ends up back in a library. But it's 'hero time'. He finds a way to escape, returning to the mysterious mansion, whose very surprising secrets he uncovers - and it truly is a jungle up there.

Smythe succeeds. He rescues the damsel in distress (though perhaps she doesn't deserve it), defeats the villain, and secures his own future. If you're in search of an unusual mystery, it doesn't get much more so than A Borrowed Man. Though it starts slowly, the finale is well worth the wait.

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