In many respects, the SF element of Ivo Stourton’s novel, ‘The Happier Dead’, is window-dressing for what is otherwise a police detective procedural story.
For those who can afford it, read that as the rich, there is procedure that can literally turn the clock on your physical age. You end up living life for a time looking like children and at The Great Spa where the procedure is carried out, you’re practically living in a 70s theme park as you re-grow to a certain age. 70s as in 1970s than the age some of these people must undoubtedly be. This is a little confused by the fact that a lot of this time is spent fast asleep but I don’t think you’re supposed to analyse that far. This isn’t helped by the fact that you don’t really see much beyond what the detective sees.
Speaking of which, one of the guests at the Spa has been murdered, a ready murderer found and because he’s not right-handed is clearly not the murderer. It is then up to DCI Rob Oates to unravel what is going on. Throughout he uses standard detection and even the reveals aren’t exactly given to the reader let alone the clues to work out what is going on.
Considering that this story is seen only through the perspective of the Police Inspector Oates, I was wondering half-way through the book why Stouton didn’t write it in first person.
In many respects, this is a retro story and, in fact, the ending is so much like an earlier generation and a wasted SF idea not being developed far enough that it is so much window dressing. This doesn’t mean it’s not well-written but Stourton needs to sit down and write a better story with the ideas he undoubtedly has.
(pub: Solaris/Rebellion Publishing/HarperCollins. 273 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78108-182-5)
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