cover image Company Town

Company Town

Madeline Ashby. Tor, $24.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8290-0

Ashby smoothly brings mass market noir detective fiction into the near future, but she struggles to resolve her story satisfactorily. Hwa does pretty well for herself as a bodyguard for the sex workers who populate a self-contained community/oil rig off the eastern coast of Canada. She wants cybernetic enhancements, but her uncaring mother won’t let her get them. When an obscenely rich family with unusual views buys the entire town, Hwa’s brought into their family affairs, which include multiple murders. Hwa is an immediately likable protagonist who isn’t afraid to shatter rules—or bones. The world is an updated version of Raymond Chandler’s, with gray morals and broken characters, and Hwa’s internal monologue has just the right balance of introspection and wit. Unfortunately, Ashby (the Machine Dynasty series) twists the plot one too many times by the end. Readers are left with a resolution that’s original but feels forced into too few pages to work properly. This is a small blemish in an otherwise very solid page-turner. Agent: Monica Pacheco, McDermid Agency. (May)