BOOK REVIEW - 'Matters Arising From the Identification of the Body' by Simon Petrie
Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body
A Guerline Scarfe investigation by Simon Petrie
Peggy Bright Books 2017 ISBN 0992512521
Tanja Morgenstein, daughter of a wealthy industrialist and a geochemist, is dead from exposure to Titan's lethal, chilled atmosphere, and Guerline Scarfe must determine why.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novella. Petrie’s writing just gets better and better all the time. The main character, Guerline Scarfe, was very well drawn and engaging. I found the book wasn’t too sciencey for a non-science person like myself. Worldbuilding was likewise excellent. Petrie never pushed the boundaries of plausibility too far and didn’t provide too many weird and wacky terminologies that I couldn’t cope with.
Matters Arising… is essentially a sci fi crime mystery story, fusing several genres ingeniously into one. Petrie manages to maintain the mystery almost right up until the end. I certainly didn’t guess the answer. Tech played a big part in the story and being a scifi movie and TV watcher I found the creations thoroughly believable in terms of what we can imagine for our not too distant future.
Guerline is an investigator who often comes up against people who are reluctant to be investigated, sometimes having to deal with a grieving family. In the back of her mind she is also dealing with the death of her brother several years ago. When she is called upon to investigate the apparent suicide of a bright young happy woman whose brother died several months before in mysterious circumstances, Guerline’s curiosity is piqued. She is a sensitive person but also very determined to get to the truth and do her job faithfully, even if it clashes with the wishes of her superiors and definitely in the face of criticism from opponents. This seems to intensify her resolve. In this story Guerline was often on the back foot, sometimes operating in the dark. People were less than forthcoming with information but due to her sensible insistence upon face to face interviews she picked up on details she would otherwise have missed.
In this story a habitat suit, a ‘T-suit’ belonging to the mother of the victim is a key piece of evidence and is itself the answer to the question of why a young, vibrant girl of twenty would choose to end her life by taking off her helmet outside in the hostile environment of Titan, in full view of cameras, knowing it would kill her rather painfully. The T-suit interacts very closely with the body, with DNA. Somehow the suit was tricked to allow Tanja to use it.
Throughout her investigation Guerline comes into contact with people from her past and people who knew the victim. The mystery deepens when she discovers that Tanja’s brother, Piotr, was seemingly fit and healthy also when he died in an accident. Both were children of extremely wealthy business owners who seemed abnormally young for their age.
Descriptions of the habitat of Titan were clean and easily digestible. It was very easy to picture oneself living on the planet, coping with the dangerous environmental constraints, going about day to day life using the tech available for safe travel and living etc.
At the height of the conflict Guerline is in a very tiny flying vessel which almost kills her but at the last minute she comes up with a sensible but risky solution to land safely. In the world Petrie has invented, computers play a huge role. There is the ‘slate’ which is her personal computer to which she can communicate privately, household computers which function like a sort of butler and avatars which can communicate, make calls, on behalf of the human owners and can be programmed to have a certain attitude or emotional intensity. I very much enjoyed the world that was created and was invested in the character discovering the answers for which she so diligently searched.
Matters Arising… is an excellent read and being a novella doesn’t take long to get through. I look forward to more in the Guerline Scarfe series.