The Spare Man

I haven’t talked about any books on here for a while, but The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal really does deserve to be read by more people.

Tesla Crane, a brilliant inventor and an heiress, is on her honeymoon on an interplanetary space liner, cruising between the Moon and Mars. She’s travelling incognito and is reveling in her anonymity. Then someone is murdered and the festering chowderheads who run security have the audacity to arrest her spouse.

Armed with banter, martinis and her small service dog, Tesla is determined to solve the crime so that the newlyweds can get back to canoodling and keep the real killer from striking again.

The Spare Man is a very light-hearted murder mystery, set in space. And it’s great.

The liner itself is superbly realised, as is the technology in general. This all fits well with the shape of the story so that the limitations and opportunities faced by the characters all feel remarkably plausible. Indeed, there is a note at the end of the book discussing the science, and some of it is remarkably close to being realised.

The final reveal does come out of nowhere somewhat, but this is more than made up by the characters, all of whom are consistently superb. This is especially true of Tesla Crane, the heroine of the store and a wonderfully well-rounded character. Like any real person, she is a mass of contradictions all of which coalesce into a believable whole. And she remains wonderfully witty throughout.

While the book harks back to the cosy murder mysteries of the early 20th Century, it does reflect more modern sensibilities and the characters are a lot more self-aware. This is especially true in the case of Tesla Crane who is uncomfortably conscious of the advantages afforded to her by her wealth and fame, but not so much that she isn’t willing to use every option available when her husband is arrested.

I really enjoyed The Spare Man. It has a smart plot and a very snappy sense of humour, along with a genuinely adorable dog. This is the first novel by Mary Robinette Kowal that I’ve read. It won’t be the last.

One final note. Every chapter starts with a cocktail recipe. These recipes include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails and many of them look rather tasty. I need to start stocking up.

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