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The Real-Town Murders

(The Real-Town Murders #1)

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  587 ratings  ·  103 reviews
Alma is a private detective in a near-future England, a country desperately trying to tempt people away from the delights of Shine, the immersive successor to the internet. But most people are happy to spend their lives plugged in, and the country is decaying.

Alma's partner is ill, and has to be treated without fail every 4 hours, a task that only Alma can do. If she misse
Paperback, 240 pages
Published August 24th 2017 by Gollancz
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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This is a superb multi-genre, multilayered, crime noir set in a future Britain. It is a world in which people are addicted to and plugged into Shine, a post-internet offering a virtual online existence, in which reality just cannot compete. It is no surprise then that the outside world is falling apart, causing significant concern in the circles of power. Private detective Alma who has a preference for the offbeat, has a partner, Marguerite, who is critically ill as a result of gene hacking. Mar ...more
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading Adam Roberts books since the year he published “Salt” (2001), though not religiously. He is an insightful thinker and quite creative in his plotting. For a number of years I passed on his book parodies such as “The Va Dinci Cod” and “The Dragon with the Girl Tattoo” and perhaps a half dozen others in that parody ilk that demonstrated his ability to utilize humor. Along came the book titled “Jack Glass” which to my mind was the pinnacle of his writing.

I tried to encourage ever
Oct 30, 2017 rated it liked it
A well written crime noir (locked room syndrome/scenario story) with intelligent scifi elements dealing with a future Britain. Funny at times and interesting ideas. Just found it a little too short in the world building. Never really felt I understood the time and place. My 1st Roberts novel but wont be me last.
K.J. Charles
Nov 05, 2017 added it
Shelves: sci-fi
Fascinating sf/noir detective story. Alma is a PI in a world where almost everyone spends all their time in virtual reality (the Shine). Alma can't because her lover Marguerite has been infected with a genespliced cancer coded to Alma's DNA that will kill her unless Alma treats her every four hours. This sounds laboured but really isn't, it's a horrible idea brilliantly executed, and the tension as Alma repeatedly fights her way back to Marguerite is heart stopping.

This is really a crime novel
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
In crime novels one of the most common scenarios of the ‘whodunnit’ is ‘the locked-room mystery’ – that is where a crime (usually a murder) has been committed without any evidence for an entrance or an exit. It’s so common that Otto Penzler has created one of his huge anthologies on it.

Adam Roberts’ future-noir story begins with an updated version of this trope – there’s a body been found in the boot (aka ‘a trunk’ in the US) of a car being assembled by robots – in a place continuously monitored
Absolutely brilliant. Adam Roberts is a genius.

Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Adam Roberts' books are definitely for those people who want extra layers in the stories they read. On the surface, The Real-Town Murders is a locked room mystery, albeit in a future setting, but it's also about how governments seek to control and manipulate their citizens. The future technology is written from the point of view of someone who clearly keeps up-to-date with technological advancements of now.

Alma is called in to investigate a murder at a wholly automated car factory, where humans
Caroline Mersey
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: review-copies
Adam Roberts has a reputation for clever, ideas-dense speculative fiction. His latest novel is The Real-Town Murders (review copy from Gollancz). The novel is a near-future murder mystery and thriller that opens with a classic locked room mystery: a body is found in the boot of a car fresh off a manufacturing line that is covered by CCTV from start to finish. A private detective called Alma is retained to investigate. The investigation leads Alma to become involved in a much wider conspiracy.

Ian Mond
Aug 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Adam Roberts last year foreshadowed that his new novel would be less ambitious than his previous work, in particular The Thing Itself a brilliant book that didn't get the full recognition (and sales I'm guessing) that it deserved. But I think saying that The Real-Town Murders is less ambitious is selling it short. It may not be as thematically or philosophically rich as The Thing Itself or Bête or Jack Glass but it's still very smart, vey astute and has something to say about our interaction wit ...more
Plamen Nenchev
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Near-future England: Deliveries are made by drones, everything is mechanised and automated, and since almost everyone spends their entire time in a virtual reality called ‘the Shine’, cafes and restaurants are empty, and ten people in the street can make a crowd (!).

But then the impossible happens, and the dullness of this desolate postmodern reality is shattered by an incident that seems pulled straight out of a Hitchcock movie: a body is found in the trunk of a newly-assembled car in a fully-a
Rob Kitchin
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Real-Town Murders mashes together SF and PI crime fiction, along with some social and political commentary on where digital technology is taking us. Set in a near-future England, most people spend all their waking hours in the Shine, an immersive VR internet, their bodies kept in shape by mesh-suits that exercise them while their online. Alma and her partner Marguerite, however, only live in the real-world due to the latter’s medical condition, which requires attention every four hours. The ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
In the near future, Alma is called to a crime scene to solve as private investigator a nearly impossible case. Slowly she has to learn that the stakes are high but failing is not an option as this condemns her partner to death...

Adam Roberts spins some interesting ideas around virtual worlds and augmented reality (in this book called the Shine). The question is not if people would spend more time in the virtual world but how little they would have to stay in the real one. It's exciting to think
Ciaran Monaghan
May 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
If you want a sci-fi action thriller type book, then this could be for you. It is easy to read and, from the second or third chapter, it is almost non-stop chases and life-threatening escapes. However, beyond that, I was disappointed. The major problem for the main character, Alma, where she has to go back to her apartment every four hours to treat her partner, even when chased by the police, feels very contrived. I also felt like the futuristic elements were quite similar to other books I've pr ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sf, crime
A science fiction novel that is also a cracking whodunnit. Set in a near future Britain (or UK-OK! as the country seems to have been renamed) this is a place of empty, echoing streets, where the sight of a vehicle on the road is a rare occasion. A population of 70 million plus spends almost all of its time immersed in a virtual reality successor to the internet, where all dreams can be made to become true. A few still have jobs which require them to drop back into reality to perform service func ...more
Feb 12, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the latter third of the 21st century (approx), a private detective is hired to investigate the finding of a dead body in the trunk of a car. This car had just been assembly-lined from scratch by robots run by the factory Artificial Intelligence; no humans around; no breaks in the multi-angle surveillance; just a dead body seemingly magically appearing in the trunk of the car in the factory parking lot. Thus begins a locked room mystery that mushrooms into a greater and greater conspiracy, ent ...more
David Harris
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
'm grateful to the publisher for an advance copy of this book via NetGalley - it's always good to be approved for an advance copy, but particularly here as I always look forward to a new book from Adam Roberts.

And The Real Town Murders - which is both a science fiction and a crime story - didn't disappoint. It has that recognisably Robertsian tone - that is, serious in theme if slightly silly on the surface, packed with allusions so sly that you have to go back and check if you really read what
Andrew Logan
Dec 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I’ve read some Adam Roberts before and found his work to be clever and interesting. Work that projects possible futures and makes intelligent observations about possible consequences. I found that again here. So far things are as expected, then.

What I did not expect to get was an Agatha Christie style murder mystery. Locked rooms, extra information needed, social norms thrown into view and a protagonist in many ways more interesting than sympathetic.

This is pretty much as promised. A murder myst
Jan 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is Jack Glass good, not Bête good.
Andrew Wallace
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Alfred Hitchcock once described opening a film by following a car being made in an automated factory; at the end of the process, the boot opens to reveal a dead body. Hitch never made the film because the idea was too impossible even for him, so Adam Roberts has taken up the challenge and transferred the idea to the realm of science fiction in ‘The Real-Town Murders’.
There are all kinds of satisfying Hitchcockian nods throughout the novel: a virtual Hitch crops up at one point and, in a nod to t
Samuel Tyler
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
If you had the choice would you live your life online? In the future this may be possible, with the development of full realised virtual reality you may feel that the online world is more real than your own. Even today we spend hours each day looking at phones or checking statuses. The only thing is that with most people online, some of us will have to stay in the real world to deal with unexpected events – such as a real town murder.

Alma is a Private Investigator who works exclusively in the re
Brian Clegg
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Of all the contemporary science fiction writers, Adam Roberts can most be relied on to deliver a book that combines an engaging story with extensions of current science and technology that really makes you think - and The Real-Town Murders does this perfectly.

Set in the south east of England, a few decades in the future, this book delivers a trio of delights. The main character, Alma, is faced with constant time pressure as she faces physical and mental challenges (including a lovely homage to N
Oct 25, 2019 rated it liked it
So I read this book because I accidentally bought the second one not knowing that it was the 2nd in a series. I will read the 2nd, since I own it, but I'm now less enthused about it.

The world is fine, if a bit creepy. It is interesting to take a look at a person who isn't inside the shared, global virtual reality concept that dominates SF. And I liked Alma a lot - she seems confused a lot in this book, but very big things are happening to her, so that's understandable. She has a purpose and is d
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in our new future, The Real-Town Murders gives us a look at what the coming years might bring. Of course we have already seen what the far future of the internet looks like in Ready Player One but the feel of this book brings it closer. An all immersive web called the Shine where people spends their lives plugged in wandering about oblivious to the real world.

The book starts with a murder, a body has been found in a car boot of a car that has just came of an assembly line. Surely a worker is
Oct 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Real-Town Murders is thrilling and high stakes science-fiction story centred around an impossible death and a governmental conspiracy. Taking place in a near-future in a world that is dominated by a new, immersive experience called Shine. Shine is the next level virtual reality simulator and it is a vast improvement on the depressing realities of real life. Almost everything goes through the Shine and the real-world is left to automated machines and artificial intelligence. There are people ...more
Feb 06, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had high hopes for this one and the reviews were good but I struggled to finish. Firstly because there were several glaringly obvious plot holes which I won't go into as I don't want to spoil it for others, and secondly the characterisations were simply not good enough.

It feels as if the author had a good idea but ran out of inspiration. I gave it two stars rather than one because it did have some interesting ideas but it's not an author I would read again.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I read this book as part of my on-going attempt to diversify my reading. I usually stick to the same old genres but this year I have been dipping my toes into more sci-fi and fantasy and, as my go to genre is crime, a sci-fi crime book seemed an ideal book to continue my mission.
We have here a traditional locked door mystery. A body is found in the book of a car made at a completely automated factory with cctv at every stage. There is absolutely no way that it could have been placed there. Alma
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
We at McA build artisanal automobiles for the discerning driver.

It was hard to put my finger on why The Real-Town Murders fell flat for me. A locked room "impossible" murder mystery. A noir detective. A near future where most of the world spends their lives online instead on in "Real-Town". But somehow it never really comes together in a satisfying way.

I think my fundamental complaint is the book feels very much like a Hollywood script. Lots of honestly kind of dumb things happen that, in a fren
Desmond Reid
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2019
It was impossible.

How did a dead body materialize in the back of a newly built car, that came from a fully automated 100% human free production plant?

But there it was. As Private Detective Alma investigates she has to dig deep into a conspiracy, which could lead to the very downfall of a near future England....

In the immediate future, the UK will be divided between the real world and those immersive delights of a hyper version of the internet known as the ‘Shine’.

Cyberspace becomes so omnipres
S.J. Higbee
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was convinced initially that this was going to be the classic closed-room mystery – until the action suddenly kicked off, the plot jinked sideways and it all turned into something quite different… I love it when that happens! There are only a handful of writers that can pull off these flourishes with such panache, but Roberts happens to be one of them. The story surged forward, as the worldmaking redefined this thriller into something quite different.

Alma is stuck in the real world, tethered b
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
The beginning of this book sucked me right in and the story kept me intrigued.

Alma is a private detective in the "real" world whereas most people in her time are focused on a virtual world called the Shine. Some people never leave the Shine and employ mesh suits to keep their body moving while they live out dreams in a virtual world. Safe from bedsores and muscle wasting.

Alma gets a case investigating how a dead body was found in the locked trunk of a newly manufactured car, when no humans are
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Adam Roberts (born 1965) is an academic, critic and novelist. He also writes parodies under the pseudonyms of A.R.R.R. Roberts, A3R Roberts and Don Brine. He also blogs at The Valve, a group blog devoted to literature and cultural studies.

He has a degree in English from the

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