cover image The Great American Deception

The Great American Deception

Scott Stein. Tiny Fox, $14.27 trade paper (228p) ISBN 978-1-946501-21-9

Stein (Mean Martin Manning) delivers a madcap sci-fi take on the hard-boiled detective genre in this fun, near-future romp that’s chock-full of rapid-fire wit, tongue-in-cheek literary allusions, and playful futuristic absurdity. Arjay, a sentient, top-of-the-line coffee machine with an excess of pep, tags along on the cases of old-school PI Frank Harken within the luxurious but dystopian confines of the Great American—a giant, autonomous, U.S.-coast-spanning shopping mall. Though the grumpy gumshoe is not always thrilled by Arjay’s presence, he can’t deny that the bot makes a “damn fine” cup of coffee. When one of the Great American’s inhabitants, Pretty Lovely, hires Harken to find her sister, kidnapped heiress Winsome Smiles, Harken and Arjay are plunged into Great American’s underbelly, where they encounter genre staples including mobsters and incompetent cops. Stein keeps the stakes high and the laughs coming, juxtaposing the gritty mystery and dystopian setting with Arjay’s perky narration to excellent effect. Sure to appeal to fans of Douglas Adams, this zany, uproarious mystery is a constant delight. (May)