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Best Science Fiction Mystery Books

Best Science Fiction Mystery Books

Love Mystery.

Love Science Fiction?

Well, you can have your cake and eat it too! Science Fiction is such a broad genre that often incorporates elements from every other genre, including the Mystery genre. Indeed, some of the best science fiction books ever written are Mystery novels.

Science Fiction Mysteries are exactly what the name says they are: mystery plots set in a futuristic world or a world that incorporates alternate technology or features an alternate setting of some sort.

While some of the Science Fiction Mystery books are all about hard action, noir settings, and down-and-out PI's, not all are. The genre is broad enough were you get every style and form of the Mystery genre: Whodunit, Puzzle, Women in Distress, Noir, and much more.

Keep in mind that this specific topic (Science Fiction) is dear to our heart as we have a large Science Fiction Book website (a Sister site to bestmysterybooks.com) that we also operate. 

So we are particularly well versed in Science Fiction recommendations. As such, here's our selection for the Top 25 Best Science Fiction Mystery Books ever written.

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Awards Won:2003 PKD

People's souls and memories have the ability to be digitized and stored. Once deposited, if something happens to you, the soul and memories can be uploaded into a different body, which is now called a sleeve, an altered carbon-based body. Not everyone approves of eternal life in different bodies. The problem is that much like a computer back-up, the last few hours of data can be lost since it has not been backed up as of yet.

That's Laurens Bancroft's situation, as his death is labeled a suicide, but he thinks that someone deliberately killed him. He hires Kovacs who has been trained as a member of an elite military group and now works as a detective. The book is violent, since Kovacs was trained to take a beating, but the book's hook is worth the violence.

Why It Made the List

For starters Netflix announced that this will be a 10-episode series in 2016. It also won the Philip K. Dick Best Novel award when it was released.

Read It If You Like

cyberpunk, dystopian societies.

Books in Takeshi Kovacs Series (3)

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The concept of this book is somewhat unique. Two different cities reside in the same space; yet the people in one are unaware of the residents of the other. They share what are called crosshatched areas. The city of the resident is called the total, whereas the parts of the city belonging to the other city are called alter. The most heinous crime is to recognize and realize the other city. Residents are taught to ignore the otherness and only concentrate on the total parts of the city.

Into this unique geography, the police find the mutilated body of a political activist. At its heart, the story is really as much a police procedural as anything written by Ed McBain. In order to solve this case, the policemen must leave their city and go to the alter city. They learn that the rumors of a third city occupying the same space may be true.

Why It Made the List

- The book won or was nominated for practically every major science fiction award in this world and its alter. The book won the Hugo, Locus and Arthur C. Clarke award among others.

Read It If You Like

Russian backgrounds (the fictional cities are likely set in the Ukraine region), police procedurals, alternate realities

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Awards Won:1953 HUGO

In a future society, fraction of the world's population possesses extrasensory perception. People may have one of 3 levels of ESP (or espers as they are called in the book.) They go from mild awareness to those who can intuit future actions and thoughts of an individual. Of course, these Level 1 espers are most likely to be involved in law enforcement.

So when Ben Reich chooses to kill a competitor, based on his own misconception of a situation, he hires a "mental bodyguard," a Level 1 esper who also works as a psychiatrist. The bodyguard believes that the superior espers should rule the world, so he's a dangerous ally to have. Additionally, Reich develops weapons and a song that can destroy the concentration of the espers. These tools help him to cover his tracks. A well-plotted introverted mystery has missteps that can vex the killer, and in this case, the victim's daughter is a witness to the crime. The police prefect is also a Level 1 esper, which is not good for Reich. He discerns easily that Reich is guilty, but the game begins of trying to find the witness before Reich does away with her.

Why It Made the List

The critics raved about this and it won the Hugo in 1953. Inverted mysteries are not all that common, and a great example of one is rare. Bester seemed to easily and flawlessly combine this sub-genre of mystery with science fiction to come up with a one-of-a-kind novel. This book is not to be missed.

Read It If You Like

future societies, ESP, police procedurals, inverted mysteries

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Award Nominations:2012 HUGO, 2012 LocusSF

In the near future, Earth has colonized the entire solar system, but no further. Tensions begin to mount between the inner planets and the planets beyond Earth. James Holden is trapped on one of the outer planets when his ship is destroyed. He learns of a plan by a corporation to replicate an alien molecule, but the results are far from a success.

The new growth, which was meant to be the latest in weaponry, begins to overwhelm the planet. Johnson and his crew help the outer planets defuse the situation, but the molecule then finds its way to Venus, when the book ends. As the police get involved with the crimes, police officer Miller starts looking into the corporation's activities as well. The disparate plot lines intersect as both parties learn what is going on with the corporation.

Why It Made the List

It won the Hugo award and the Locus Award in 2012, and the series had been made into a TV program on the SyFy network. It was just renewed for a second season. James Corey is a pseudonym for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck.

Read It If You Like

space travel, colonization of the planets, intergalactic war

Books in The Expanse Series (6)

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Award Nominations:1968 NEBULA

After the nuclear wars, people want to get off this planet for parts unknown. All that are left are people who cannot leave Earth and the androids who have escaped from their Earth-leaving owners. The androids who come back often take on the appearance and identity of their former owners. Of course, their owners want them back, and Rick Decker, one of the bounty hunters left on Earth, is hired to track down one particular android. Theres no worries about this job, since the androids are assumed not to have any emotions. Others on the planet know different, and they work to help the androids escape capture. 

Why It Made the List

This story was made into Blade Runner, one of the string of hits featuring Harrison Ford. But of course, the movie is never as good as the book. Dick was a science fiction author who was well-received during his lifetime, but was largely forgotten until some of his works started to become films. The taut plots and questions about science moving forward faster than our morality have made movies like The Minority Report and Total Recall. 'Read It If You Like' post-apocalyptic societies, robots, police procedurals

Read It If You Like

post-apocalyptic societies, robots, police procedurals

Books in Blade Runner Series (4)

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In a millennium, Earth has too many people on it. Some have been shipped off to other planets in the solar system, which have been colonized. The introduction of robots into society has helped with the colonization. In this futuristic society, only some people still remain in New York City. One is Detective Elijah Baley, who doesnt appreciate the advances in science. Hes partnered with a robot on a murder investigation who look just like the victim. Thats enough to creep him out without the thought that a positronic brain organism is helping find a killer. Asimov is lauded in both the mystery and the science fiction genres, so a combination of the two makes for one of his best series. 

Why It Made the List

Asimov is probably one of the best known authors of science fiction novels and short stories. His works have appeared around the world and been anthologized repeatedly. When he took a break from writing science fiction, he wrote mysteries, including his extremely popular Black Widower stories that featured a crime-solving waiter.

Read It If You Like

New York City mysteries, police procedurals, robots  

Books in Robot Series (4)

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Its not every cabbie who could destroy the world if he wanted to, but fortunately, Mack isnt in that sort of thing. Hes content to drive around Empire City, picking up fares. It isnt until his neighbors disappear without a trace that he decides to get involved with the lives of human beings. However, the neighbors are a bit darker than he knew. One of them has the potential to destroy the world, and other people want to take that from him. Of course, Mack could just go in and take what he wants. However, when other people recognize Macks potential, they opt to mess with his insides to make him revert to his true nature of world killer. Its hard to stay on track to save the neighbors when this happens, but along with a beautiful love interest, he may just be able to do that. 

Why It Made the List

Mack, despite his robot-like demeanor, is cut from the same cloth as heroes from Hammett and Chandler. Hes actually in the same wise-cracking mold as some of the favorites of private eye fiction. This book is a favorite of the fans, and its worth the time to find a copy of this book. 'Read It If You Like' robots, thrillers, private eye novels Similar Recommendations Raymond Chandler wrote the knight errant of wise-cracking detectives, Philip Marlowe. 

Read It If You Like

robots, thrillers, private eye novels

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Though actually a short story by Dick, he's the only author represented twice in the list. Dick was one of the talents nurtured by Anthony Boucher at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and is remembered for his amazing works today. In the near future, three precogs (precognitive beings) foresee all crime and report out to a police bureau that stops crime before it happens.

When the head of that division, John Anderton is accused of murdering a man, he has to go on the run. It becomes clear that sometimes only 2 of the 3 precogs experience the same vision of the violent incident, and the third member sees a different future, the minority report. These reports indicate that the future is not set in stone and may be changed by free will. Anderton must keep his freedom while trying to locate the minority report and clear his name.

Why It Made the List

The story was made into a wildly popular film starring Tom Cruise, and was later made into a Fox TV series, which didn't make it to a second season.

Read It If You Like

precognition, the future on Earth, men on the run.

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Awards Won:2001 BSFA

The story is told from the perspective of Tanner Mirabel, who decides to visit the city, to retaliate the death of a client's wife. It seems like an easy job, since he knows who killed her. The murderer is a "postmortal," someone who has lengthened their life through technological advances However, when Mirabel arrives in Chasm City, he finds anarchy and devastation, hardly the hallmarks of utopia. He learns that a plague has infected both humans and machines and brought the city to the brink of destruction. Of course, he too is struck by the virus, and Tanner begins having hallucinations about the hero of his own society, which reveal some of the terrible things this legend did to build up Tanner's own society.

Why It Made the List

It won the British Science Fiction Association award in 2002. It's one of the few non-American books on the list. So if you want something more international, this might be the book for you.

Read It If You Like

foreign civilizations, revenge plots, mysterious illnesses

Books in Revelation Space Series (3)

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Set in the near future, England has become a tropical zone after global-warming takes place. Dr. Edward Kitchener is a double Nobel Prize winning scientist. He secretly works for Event Horizon, a global corporation until he is killed and dissected in a retreat he is sharing with several of his students. While the resort has security, it's easily shown that a mercenary could slip in and out. The question becomes who would want to pay a mercenary to kill him. Was it corporate espionage or something more personal? Greg Mandel, who is a surgically enhanced detective, takes on the case, which involves quantum physics and the discovery of wormholes and looks into a past that according to Kitchener might not even have occurred.

Why It Made the List

This is the second book in a trilogy of works starring Greg Mandel. The physics, which plays a role in the book, is well explained, and adds to the murder mystery. Since time might not be linear, the detectives have a hard time trying to prove the guilt of the person they suspect.

Read It If You Like

Near future science fiction, corporations gone bad, enhanced detection

Books in Greg Mandel Series (3)

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Martin Kindred is the only man in his family who isn't a law enforcement officer. However, he works for the prison system and has come up with a cost-cutting measure. Rather than feed and house the felons serving life sentences, he recommends offering a buy-out to the prisoners. They'll receive millions of dollars if they agree to be executed now. The buyout is split between the felon's family and any victims of the crime. The program is highly controversial and has many opponents. Martin has trouble taking flak for the program, especially after one of the men in line for a buyout is rumored to be his brother's killer. Suddenly the crime is personal and the results affect Martin.

Why It Made the List

The book deals with the very real issues of the death penalty and the fate of prisoners who are locked up for life with no chance of parole. Should they or their families be compensated for their crimes, albeit at a high price? Irvine doesn't provide easy answers to these questions.

Read It If You Like

near future Earth, overpopulation, ethical issues in science fiction

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Humanity seems to have solved its problems a century for now, when travel is available to anywhere in the galaxy, energy is cleaner, and an empire has been formed. In large part this is due the North family, a group that doesn't seem to change from generation to generation. That's literally true, because the Norths are cloned. When one of the Norths is killed, Detective Sidney Hurst begins to look into the matter. He finds that the Newcastle crime is a copycat of the same type of murder on the planet St. Libra. Someone was put away for that crime, and now Hurst has to doubt that the right person was convicted. The crimes bear so many points in common that it's unlikely that two killers are at work. Hurst and the newly released convicted killer are on the same path to find the real killer before it's too late.

Why It Made the List

The book is over 1000 pages long. While it's a big book, it reads fast and it stands out in the era of 200-300 page books. Definitely worth lifting it up for a read.

Read It If You Like

long books, space travel,

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Set in the present, Cayce Pollard responds to logos and corporate advertising in a hypersensitive manner. So it's no surprise that she's hired by a marketing firm. When a graphic designer is angered by Cayce, it's obvious that there's more to this rage than simple some Photoshop. The designer is aligned with the Russians, who have been spying on case. Cayce has been investigating some odd video clips on the Internet.

She teams up with a stranger who goes by the name of Parkaboy to solve this. Parkaboy learns of a watermark on one of the videos is identifiable. Cayce goes to Japan to investigate, but she and a friend learn that the trail leads them to London and the US. The trail gets hot after that as they try to find the truth.

Why It Made the List

This is an interesting book that doesn't fit the rest of the list, though it very much is a science fiction mystery. The background and the current day make it unique, but in the same way, the book makes the reader look at various marketing techniques and the uses of the Internet. It's definitely a book that will make you think and not want to put it down. This was the author's first use of a present-day setting and it works well.

Read It If You Like

Present day, technology oriented, worldwide thrillers

Books in Blue Ant Series (3)

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Award Nominations:1994 NEBULA

In the future, its not just Dr. Doolittle who can talk to the animals. Everyone on Earth can now chat with the cats. However, this is not a conversational paradise. Some of the species have formed their own organized crime networks. Others are now hired guns. However, society has adapted, like it has over the centuries. The government has started forced medications so that people will be happier to go along with their ideas without question. Like many classic PI mysteries, Conrad Metcalf takes on a client who wants the PI to follow his wife. When the client is murdered, the government wants to talk to Metcalf, and so do some of the animal mafia. When both sides are against you, where does a poor PI turn?

Why It Made the List

Anything that Lethem writes is a big deal. Hes won novel of the year from Esquire, the Crime Writers Associations Golden Dagger award for best novel, and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Lethem works as a magazine editor as well to keep his prose tight and suspenseful. animals as characters, private eye novels, thought control

Read It If You Like

animals as characters, private eye novels, thought control

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 Every civilization tells stories to the next generation to explain its principles and how it came to be. These civilization stories have been told orally and later in books and documents. Some people, like Alex Benedict in this story, want to find out the truth about these stories. Benedicts uncle, who has disappeared under mysterious circumstances, left his nephew clues as to the truths of these myths. The files that his uncle discusses disappear as quickly as the uncle though, but Benedict does not let that stop him from the truth. He investigates the first war that started the current society. The answers are not flattering to the heroes of the myths. The ending is mind-blowing and yet plausible, making the reader think about our own creation stories. 

Why It Made the List

Fans have loved this book since it was published. Its routinely named as McDevitts best work, which is saying something since the author has a long list of nominations and awards. 'Read It If You Like' backstories framing the present day, alien civilizations, thrillers 

Read It If You Like

backstories framing the present day, alien civilizations, thrillers

Books in Alex Benedict Series (7)

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Set in the future, the Western superpowers of Earth have faded with time, and the Middle East has taken their place as the reigning military and financial giants. Mard Audran, who lives in the Middle East, is a poor soul just trying to make ends meet until he becomes the primary suspect in a series of sadist murders. Audran is forced to look into the murders to save himself. Already a crime lord wants him dead, but settles for making changes to Audrans brain. Of course, these changes impact his ability to solve the crimes. While the killer gets closer to Audran by bumping off his circle of friends and acquaintances, Audran has to try to solve the crime. Hes not a world class sleuth, and the situation doesnt resolve itself until he is kidnapped and readied to be the next victim of the serial killer. 

Why It Made the List

When Gravity Fails was nominated for the big two in science fiction and fantasy, the Hugo and the Nebula. Effinger wrote two more books in this series and some short stories too. Yasmin, Audrans sometimes girlfriend is one of the first transgender characters in science fiction, making it even more notable. The book was nominated for the Hugo and the Nebula awards. Its the first in a series that included two other novels and a series of short stories as well as an unfinished novel.

Read It If You Like

cyberpunk, serial killers, genetic modifications 

Books in Marîd Audran Series (3)

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A future society creates clay images of themselves called dittos, or golems, after the Jewish figures. These dittos are cheap, can do things that humans don't want to do or are afraid to do. The memories can then be uploaded into the human, so the adventures will be remembered by that person. Albert Morris is a PI who uses dittos regularly and successfully.

The book starts with a Morris ditto being chased by the dittos of a particular gang. Morris uploads the memories and is able to put the gang behind bars. When one of the founders of the Universal Kilns is murdered, Albert's ditto is captured by one of the dead man's dittos. Albert's dittos begin to have issues functioning, which is rare for him, and Albert finds himself in a precarious position as he must solve the crime and keep himself safe. He has to stay alive to thwart a plan by the dittos to kill millions.

Why It Made the List

The book was nominated for four of the most prestigious science fiction awards, the Hugo the Locus, the Campbell Award and the Clarke Award. In each case, it lost to a different book.

Read It If You Like

robots, stored memories, private eye novels

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Japan has been destroyed by a natural disaster in the not-too-distant past. As the elders who remember their country as it was pass away, the younger generation is left with the bleak reality that Japan has and will always be this way. To turn away from the miserable way of life, they begin to use virtual reality to make things better. Soon everyone is involved with alternate realities, which would be fine, except many people have begun to confuse reality and make-believe. So police investigations are stymied by the fact that they cant accept evidence since people cant determine where it happened. When a victim is murdered in an alternate reality parlor, where people go to avoid life, homicide detective Dore Konstantin finds a corpse who died in the same manner in real life as in the alternate reality. 

Why It Made the List

Cardigan is a multiple winner of the Arthur C. Clarke award and has been hailed as the Queen of CyberPunk. This hook should be ideal for a generation hooked on technology and in a world where the messages we receive so often cannot be taken at face value. 

Read It If You Like

artificial reality, dystopian societies, Japanese settings

Books in Artificial Reali... Series (2)

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Award Nominations:2003 CAMPBELL

Set ten thousand years into the future, this trilogy deals with a utopian society where justice is meted out by dealing with the other person and tele-presence has replaced the phone. All beings are immortal and rich. Of course the book introduces Phaethon who soon finds himself outside of this wonderful place. In the span of a short time, he's accosted by an old man who calls him a fake and a person from Neptune who recalls a Phaethon who no longer exists.

What happened to Phaethon's memory? He must go in search of it and what crimes he committed to do this to himself. Of course, once behind the curtain of the utopia, Phaethon finds an entirely different world that is not as pleasing as originally thought. The trilogy deals with Phaethon's loss of self and his loss of stature in the community from trying to learn more about himself.

Why It Made the List

The book got great reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, and the series is still remembered and loved today.

Read It If You Like

far-future books, the outsider in utopia

Books in Golden Age Series (3)

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This book imagines that Germany did not lose World War I. The US brokered a peace that left the Ottoman Empire intact. Grimwood takes from this that the Middle East maintained a dominance in the area, which is one reason that the series is called Arabesk. El Iskandryia, a reimagined Alexandria, is the setting of the book, a dark and foreboding city that sits in Northern Africa.

Ashraf Bey is struggling with his own identity. He was a street criminal who has escaped from jail to become the wealthy nobleman that he is now. Bey is accused of murder, and he flees with a young girl in tow. He has to find the answers to his own identify to solve the crime he's accused of.

Why It Made the List

This book is typically listed with the mystery section, but the alternate world and its implications are so well done that it deserves a place in science fiction as well. Grimwood really did his homework, looking at all the ramifications of the brokered peace and what it meant to the world 100 years later.

Read It If You Like

speculative fiction, alternate worlds, Arab/African settings, hardboiled detective stories

Books in Arabesk Series (3)

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Farthing is another novel set in an alternate reality following the World Wars. In this case, the US did not back Britain in the lead-up to World War II, and when Rudolf Hess flew to Scotland to propose peace, Britain agreed to the terms. The peace accord led to no US involvement in World War II and Germany and the USSR fought to a stalemate. The Farthing Set refers to the group who advocated appeasement to Hitler, and they enjoy a place in British government now.

The story is a country house murder mystery where these men have gathered for the weekend to discuss politics. One of them is stabbed with yellow Star of David, the German symbol for Jewish people. The lone Jewish member of the group is quickly suspected, but it soon comes to light that most everyone in the party had motives for murder.

Why It Made the List

It was nominated for a Nebula, a Quill, a Campbell Award, a Locus Award, and the Sidewise Award for Best Alternate History. The book won the Romantic Times Best Science Fiction Novel award.

Read It If You Like

alternate histories, World War II dramas, country house mysteries, political plots

Books in Small Change Series (3)

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Miles Vorkosigan has to work out some issues with a distance society. The village abhors any physical imperfections, and its no real surprise when a baby, who had been born with birth defects, is murdered. Yet the village has ostensibly not participated in that custom for decades until now and the ruling class feels that it must send the scion of their clan to come down hard on the village to ensure this doesnt happen again. In a village of this size, the solution seems like it should come quickly, but Vorkosigan soon learns that the solution is not that easy He comes up against the Village Speaker who is determined to hide the truth of the death from the ruling class. Fortunately, Vorkosigan has plenty of truth serum to help with the investigation. 

Why It Made the List

This is a Hugo and Nebula award winner. The story is an entry in the Miles Vorkosigan series; this story, like many in this list, won the Hugo and Nebula awards. Lois McMaster Bujold, has been writing science-fiction for decades and is one of the best known names writing today. Be sure to check out this series -- it's regarded as her science fiction magnum opus.

Read It If You Like

alternate cultures, dystopian societies, outside investigators, underdogs, space opera, spaceship based military science fiction (some books), long series

Books in Vorkosigan Series (15)

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New Klondike is a domed and doomed city on the planet Mars. Its a get-rich-quick town that has since gone bust. The settlers want to cash in on Martian fossils which fetch a good price on Earth. Of course, some things are too good to be true and this is another case of that maxim. The miners discover that most of the fossils have disappeared and the prices they thought theyd get for the fossils doesnt match reality. Before they can return to Earth, someone murders the original miners. Alex Lomax, a private investigator, goes to New Klondike to see if he can learn who killed the miners. While hes there, he might also find a lead to the stashed fossils, which would still be worth a fortune. 

Why It Made the List

This book started life as a novella, Identity Theft, which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and Sawyer later used it as the basis for his novel. The book uses pop-culture references to the classic private eye novels for the astute reader.

Read It If You Like

classic private eye novels, books set on Mars, award winners, dystopian societies.

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Hank Palance is in a bad place at a bad time. He's a cop who is dealing with a city on the brink of destruction. An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and nothing can be done to stop it. The experts give the world six months until collision. As a result, people are behaving badly. They're quitting their jobs, doing what they want, getting into trouble. Some are killing themselves as well. However, Palance finds a hanging that doesn't match the others he's seen recently. Something is wrong, and he decides, even in the end times, that he needs to continue to bring order to the chaos by solving the mystery.

Why It Made the List

The book won best paperback original from Mystery Writers of America. It's part of a trilogy featuring Palance, since the series couldn't go on forever due to its premise.

Read It If You Like

police procedural, end of the world, murder disguised as suicides

Books in The Last Policem... Series (3)

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Award Nominations:1987 HUGO

A time travel machine creates what are known as bobbles, time bubbles that slow down time for the people inside. When people leave the bobbles in the 23rd century, they are finding that the Earth is missing something people. Some event has occurred and only small clues are left to what might have happened to the people of Earth. When one of the people to be released from the bobble is forced to remain, that person dies alone on the planet, making this a murder of sorts. The crime is then investigated by detective Wil Brierson. The criminal turns out to be someone who wants to win despite any costs, even the fate of mankind.

Why It Made the List

In this time travel novel, the author sets up not one but two locked room mysteries. Given that plotting a single such crime is difficult, handling two of them is something left to the masters of the locked rooms. This book was a Hugo nominee and Vinge has won multiple Hugo awards.

Read It If You Like

alien invasion, end of the Earth, a planet without life, locked room mysteries

Books in Across Realtime Series (2)

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