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Punishment (Detective Barnes, #1)
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(Detective Barnes #1)

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  4,171 ratings  ·  411 reviews
Do you want to know what it’s like to die, to kill, to really fear for your life? Then get hooked…

Detroit-based homicide detective John Barnes has seen it all—literally. Thanks to a technologically advanced machine, detectives have access to the memories of the living, the dying, and the recently dead. But extracting victims’ experiences firsthand and personally reliving e
Paperback, 240 pages
Published July 31st 2018 by Thomas & Mercer (first published February 1st 2018)
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Scott Holliday Lisa,

That's one heck of a question. My knee jerk response is that I'd be against it, but in a way it seems we're heading toward this kind of…more

That's one heck of a question. My knee jerk response is that I'd be against it, but in a way it seems we're heading toward this kind of technology with virtual reality as it is. Maybe it's not the same as reliving a person's memories, but close, and maybe just as damaging. Final answer... I'd have to be against it. I think the damage to so many people would (and maybe will ;) outweigh the benefit.

Thanks for the awesome review, Lisa. I'm glad you like the book!

Scott Holliday Lisa,

Thanks for the question! Nothing in particular happened. I just think a lot.

Like... a lot ;)

If you think about events that happen in our daily…more

Thanks for the question! Nothing in particular happened. I just think a lot.

Like... a lot ;)

If you think about events that happen in our daily lives, things that we choose to believe or not believe, perception comes down to a matter of opinion--even when, in our hearts, we know the truth. That's a weird sentence, so let me give an example. Let's say our suspicion is that someone doesn't like us. There's just something about the way they talk or interact with us that gives a certain feeling. And yet, in all other ways this person is nice and if we were to tell anyone of our instinct about them, we'd be told, "You're reading too much into it." The thing is, our instinct is probably right, but often times we make the choice to ignore our instinct unless the facts are put right in our face. Only when faced with no alternative but to see reality, do we actually choose to see reality. The idea of the machine comes from this concept. What if there was a device that erased all doubt about the way you view something? On the surface it seems like a great thing, but consider the example. Would life be better if we knew, every time our instinct told us something, that it was absolutely true? No more opinion, no more filtering through feelings or talking with others about it, etc. Better? Maybe. Or maybe it would be far worse. Either way, if any of us had the means to know the truth about any situation, we would likely seek it, even to our own detriment. Maybe even to our own destruction. This is where the book poses the question, what really is punishment? Who's really enduring it, and is it their own choice? The concept mirrors our current reality, where the machine doesn't even exist, because in our hearts we always know the truth... it's just a question of perception.


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3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,171 ratings  ·  411 reviews

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Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Punishment introduces a cool concept into the dark world of crime fiction; a machine which enables law enforcement to temporarily transpose the dying memories of murder victims into their own corpus of memories. The criminals in the fictional (future?) world have acclimatized to this new wave of policing and now wear masks to hide their identity, which means good old fashioned policing is still paramount to catching a killer.

In Punishment, a killer is terrorizing the populace and taunting the p
Despite the futuristic tech, most of this story isn't anything new. World weary, Machine addicted, and psychologically damaged Detective Barnes is searching for a murderer in the siphoned memories of his victims. Plugged into a device that replays their last moments at full sensory levels, he is taunted by a serial killer whose crimes had already tipped the last investigator over the edge.

It all sounds pretty interesting, but is let down by the poor characterisation, especially the unlikely red
Dee Arr
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, thriller
Author Scott J. Holliday’s “Punishment” has a lot going for it. It contains a great plot idea wrapped in a mystery/thriller story, nicely helped by talented writing. There are a few elements that bothered me about the book, but none that would cause me to encourage others to leave it on the shelf.

The author’s overall theme, a world where memories are chipped and sold, is not new. However, the twist of using the science as a tool to aid in police investigations is something I haven’t read before
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

Detective John Barnes is a policeman who solves crime by using a technology that lets him experience the last memories of the victims. Unfortunately, there is a huge cost to the procedure, as Barnes suffers from PTSD.

He quits, but then a serial killers starts in. Can Barnes withstand the pain to catch the killer.

Pretty good. Thought provoking.
May 25, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi
This was a contemporary crime story with a sci-fi twist. It was a detective mystery and a dark psychological thriller that even included a tiny hint of romance. The tone of the story was fairly dark but there was enough hints of hope that it kept things from getting too bleak.

A masked serial killer going by the name, Calavera, has been on a murderous rampage in Detroit. Detective John Barnes is the lead on the case but things become more complicated when Calavera starts to bait Barnes personall
Tara Bush
It was an interesting story, but it lacked character depth and was a bit short on reason in some places. We've got our damaged, self-hating, weary detective (very unoriginal) who hooks himself into a machine where he relives his homicide victims' deaths to solve the crime. While we do learn about why the detective believes he deserves punishment, the reader never feels it. The detective is Mr. Macho, sad and misunderstood, always doing more than he should, risking his well-being, but somehow alw ...more
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I chose this book from this months Kindle First selection. It was a difficult choice, with real competition this month and at least 4 out of 6 of those on offer which got my interest. In the end it was this that won out, the machine..... I just had to know more.

The concept of a machine that can tap into and then replay not just memories, but physical sensation, pain, fear, love, the whole gamut of human emotions, taken from a person and then played into the mind and body of someone els
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought-provoking concept, and a compelling sci-fi murder mystery.
Chandra Claypool (wherethereadergrows)
What an absolutely unique look into how future crime may be solved. I couldn't even begin to imagine what it would be like to be able to see the memories of not only the living but the dead too. The absolute weight it must put on someone not only mentally but physically would be cumbersome and surely cause their mind to break itself... eventually. Barnes has seen past users of this machine end up in a ward for the criminally insane. He swears he doesn't "need" the machine and that he can bring h ...more
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Future machine extracts memory from living or dead people and can be downloaded into someone else. Used for fun ("you can be a Kardashian for a day"), detective tool, and as punishment for criminals. Murderers must relive their victims final moments as the victim. The murderer feels every fear, terror, and pain that they caused the victim. Now that's justice.

The story line of a detective trying to find a serial killer by tapping in and experiencing the victims last memories is so unique. This is
Jan 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting concepts

I thoroughly enjoyed this take on the machine and it's side effects. I really thought the killer was a few different people and had not guessed the truth.

The author was able to make a middle ground of details, but not being overblown about it.
Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: won-giveaways
3.5 stars but I'll round up.
**I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for this unbiased review**

This book took the cliché burned out detective vs serial killer trope and put an interesting and engrossing sci-fi touch on it. The world of this novel is just like ours, with one additional technology: people can download memories into their own brains. This is especially useful for homicide detectives, who "plug in" to their victims to get a first person view of their demise. In add
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
You know this story: The world-weary homicide cop with deep personal damage and cheerlessly engaged in a cycle of self-destructive behavior sets out on a case that will bring him a measure of redemption. This very tired setup is given a new twist in Punishment with the introduction of The Machine, a plugin and drug combo that captures short term memories stored in the hippocampus. Once those memories are recorded they are then accessible to anyone else willing to jack in. If that technology angl ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok. This book is sooooooo cool. Definitely the most unique and exciting story I have read this year. I loved every single page and character. Pumped that this will be a series!!!
Jan 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a Kindle First Read book selection. It did not jump out at me - it just seemed to be the best possibility of a good read. The subject matter is intense and not for the squeamish or those who cannot take violent scenes.

The premise is intriguing, if macabre - creation of a machine that can pull recent memories from peoples' minds, including recently deceased, and make the guilty parties (and detectives) relive those last memories. This is definitely at the forefront, as a serial killer i
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For people who love thrillers and science fiction this is the book for you. The science fiction element isn't too strong, but it threads throughout the book creating what if questions. I was at the edge of my seat while reading this book. I was torn between reading more and putting it down because of anticipating the actions of the two main characters. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. The ending was somewhat of a surprise. Overall a good book, and a quick read.
Lonnie Conn
Interesting idea. It started off pretty good but I found it hard to keep the voices in Barnes’ head straight toward the end. Some things didn’t make sense either.
Guy Lenk
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Categorizing this one is a bit difficult. It's definitely a Crime/Detective book, but it's also Sci-fi. I've seen negative reviews about the fact that Holliday didn't go into overly elaborate discussions of the 'science' behind the machine. I'm glad Holliday made that choice because I usually find that stuff is just distracting from the point of the story (e.g. midichlorians). One caveat with this book is that it has quite a bit of gore and violence (murder detective after all), so if that's not ...more
Derrell Carter
The idea was intriguing, the execution fell a little short. The main character was unsympathetic at times and the side characters weren't fleshed out at all. I felt that you didn't even get a good idea of how the characters moved, what they cared about or what they were motivated by besides supporting the main character and its no wonder with character descriptions like "She looked tired, and she looked Mexican." It felt like many of the characters were just hollow shells with stereotypical pers ...more
Brian Koeller
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I liked the idea of a machine that downloads memories and the killer was fairly interesting. The lead character wasn't exactly original but solid. The story was paved well & I enjoyed ut.
Michael T. Stallings
Not only did I enjoy it, I preordered book 2.
Mar 19, 2018 rated it liked it
This book didn't do much for me. It was just ok. To think about hooking a dead person up to a machine to get their last memories kind of made my stomach turn. It was just too unreal for me.
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am an insomniac and as such I guard the few hours I sleep jealousy. I avoid things that I know will haunt me at night and steal what little sleep I have away. I wasn't very far into this book when it became obvious it fell into that category. Generally when that happens the book lands in my "trashed it" pile, a pile littered with the likes of Stephen King and Lee Child. After that I generally sooth my frayed nerves with a cozy mystery or something else designed to clear my head and push my fea ...more
Donald Mosier
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of the most unique, intriguing, and yet disturbing police procedurals (can I really call it that) I have ever read. I nearly gave it five stars. Then my better judgment kicked in and reminded me that such ratings are reserved for more literary works than this. But it was a near thing.

John Barnes is a detective. He is investigating a serial killer, who eviscerates his victims with a pickaxe. (Yuck) He also write a poem at each killing. Of course, the background twist is that this civi
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Too off the walk for me

First off, memories don't keep living ... I mean, they might be able to survive and be relived by another person in some sort of bio-digital way but they are not living things that will gain MORE memory unto themselves when they're relived by another mind. Like, all the memories of the dead do not and cannot add more to their stories! They're dead! Memories stopped being created when the original thinker's neurons stopped firing! Memories age but they only will fade, not b
Jan 07, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe 3.5 stars. I picked this as my Kindle First option for January and while I thought the concept was really unique and I enjoyed the pace, I really didn’t care for the rushed romance part of it. Not that I want a long drawn out romance in a thriller book, but if there’s going to be romance, I want it to be believable.
There was a good mix of predictability and twists + turns. Kept my attention and overall a good read.
Kendra Morgan
Interesting Take on Criminal Justice

Addicts crave their drug of choice, munkies crave the machine. Criminals have the machine forced on them like Tom Paris in a Voyager episode.
Two-haiku review:

Cop in the future
Can enter mind of victim
Experience death

Very good plotting
And interesting premise
Three-and-a-half stars
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cjsreads
3.5/5 stars - rounded up for rating
Full review to follow
Charles Miske
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, intense. This was a real mind-bending experience. Imagine being forced to absorb that last breathing memory of the dead, the victims of horrible violent crimes. Imagine there is actually something worse than that, which I won't reveal.

That's the story for our poor detective, tracking a serial killer who remains just on the edge of his collective memories.

Great story, very fun. Well worth the hours to read it, even if you're not a fan of any one of police procedural, serial killer, thriller
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Scott J. Holliday was born and raised in Detroit. In addition to a lifelong love of books and reading, he’s pursued a range of curiosities and interests, including glassblowing, boxing, and much more. His most recent novel is Machine City, the sequel to Punishment, both in the Detective Barnes series. He loves to cook and create stories for his wife and two daughters.

Other books in the series

Detective Barnes (2 books)
  • Machine City (Detective Barnes, #2)
“Here’s what I’m selling—you leave the world a better place than when you entered it. That’s all there is. For us it means we take down bad guys. For the dude who owns Lafayette it means serving the best goddamned coney dogs you’re ever gonna eat. For some Peace Corps sap it means putting rice in some poor kid’s bowl and swatting the flies off him. It doesn’t matter what you choose, it only matters what you can make stick.” 3 likes
“A thought like that might once have disturbed him, made him wonder whether he was depraved, but now such thoughts were like wind gusts through a keyhole.” 0 likes
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