Review: “The Memory Detective,” T.S. Nichols

Pros: What a great concept, executed brilliantly
Cons: I wish there was already a sequel out!
Rating: 5 out of 5

Uncorrected proof provided by publisher for review.

T.S. Nichols’s The Memory Detective is about police officer Cole, also known to the newspaper-reading public as the Memory Detective. A procedure has been developed that allows a person to take on the memories of a dead person. Usually this is done by a next of kin, but in a handful of cases Cole has done it for various Jane and John Does whose murders could not otherwise be solved. There’s a limit on how many of these procedures most people can undergo (two to three depending on the state), but there’s something unusual about Cole and he’s had more than ten without a problem. He’s also oddly good at recalling untainted memories of the murder itself, and he has a secret–when the case is over and he has some time to himself, he’s addicted to wallowing in the rest of the memories he’s taken on. Meanwhile, there’s another set of murders going on, perpetrated by a mysterious company that’s selling custom-made sets of memories. They hire desperate people and give them plenty of money to adventure on for ten years, with the understanding that at the end of that time, it’s over–the company comes for the memories once they find a buyer. All the cops know is that bodies with shaved heads keep turning up in the water, and Cole isn’t able to take on any memories from them.

The concept of the Memory Detective is fantastic and well-thought-out. This is also the only really obvious SF part of the plot, with the rest of the world seeming pretty much the same as always. Cole’s presence gives context to the procedure and prevents it from feeling like a gimmick or plot device. He truly humanizes the whole thing, particularly through his addiction and his quirky methods for trying to tease out the memories he needs. In addition, our exploration of the mysterious memory-selling company is through the experiences of one of their customers as he goes to great lengths to draw out every last one of the memories he’s inherited, again putting a human face on all of the machinations.

The only difficulty I had was with one particular scenario where Cole fails to figure out something that seemed rather obvious. But at least that situation doesn’t last for long. (Sorry for the vagueness; I’m trying not to give spoilers.)

The best compliment I can give this book is to say that I keep wishing there was already a sequel for me to read!

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