Moon Shot: Murder and Mayhem on the Edge of Space by J. Alan Hartman

MOON
Moon Shot: Murder and Mayhem on the Edge of Space edited by J. Alan Hartman

Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (132 pages)
Heat Level: Sensual
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Mystery and science fiction come together in a brand-new volume of short stories featuring original works from 14 of today’s best writers.

Whether it’s a murder on the International Space Station or a theft of a valuable piece of equipment from NASA, Moon Shot presents a stellar (and, in some cases, interstellar) lineup of stories that cross genres and are sure to entertain readers who appreciate a blend of suspense, thriller, mystery and sci-fi.

The stories onboard the space shuttle Moon Shot are written by Suzanne Berube Rorhus, Elizabeth Hosang, Jack Bates, Laird Long, Jeremy K. Tyler, E. Lynn Hooghiemstra, Toby Speed, Wenda Morrone, Suzanne Derham Cifarelli, Andrew MacRae, Jeff Howe, Percy Spurlark Parker, Mary McCarroll White and Lance Zarimba.

How would you plan the perfect murder? Is the risk of getting caught worth the reward?

There aren’t many anthologies out there that attempt to blend science fiction with murder mysteries, yet this book is a solid example of just how much both genres can enrich one another. I never would have thought to mix them together, but the results speak for themselves.

By far the best entry in this collection is “Fedoras.” It’s set at a time in the future when computers solve the vast majority of the crimes that are committed, and humans are only called in for special cases. Although I never had trouble understanding what was happening, the plot is so complex that it easily could have been expanded into a novella. The characterization is especially rich, and I enjoyed figuring out Detective Stone’s background almost as much as I did attempting to solve the case alongside him.

One of the few missteps takes place in “A Murder Far From Home.” It follows the investigation of the brutal murder of a scientist who is working onboard an international space station. While the pacing was perfect, the investigator who tries to figure out what happened to her has an obvious bias against the deceased as a woman and fellow human being. His constant character assassination of someone who has just died made it difficult for me to take anything else he deduces seriously even though the mystery itself is quite intriguing.

The premise of “Downhill Slide” seems impossible at first. A man is murdered while living in almost total isolation on a work-related project. The sole suspect has an excellent reason to explain why they couldn’t possibly have killed him. What confused me about this tale was the gender of the investigator. Chris Ba has a wife and two children waiting at home, but I was never able to figure out if this character was supposed to be a man or a woman. At first this question didn’t matter so much, but by the end I really wished the answer to it was clearer because of how it affects how the reader interprets certain scenes.

“Crime of Passion” is another must-read. In it the death of a quiet, cheerful teacher living in a colony on Mars reveals some surprising secrets as Officers Jacobs and Smith untangle the mystery of a life cut short. The twist at the end is particularly clever. In retrospect I completely understand why it was written that way, but it was definitely not what I thought was going to happen. This is another entry that I wish was a novella instead of a short story. It answers all of the questions it raises, but I was so enthralled with the characters that I didn’t want to say goodbye to them.

While Moon Shot contains elements from both the science fiction and mystery genres, it leans more heavily on the latter as far as which tropes are relied up to advance the plot. Some of the mysteries are specific to conditions that can only be found in outer space or on other planets, but many others could have potentially taken place on Earth. There are good reasons why the authors in this collection chose less familiar settings, though, and their stories are richer for it.

Moon Shot: Murder and Mayhem on the Edge of Space is a fascinating collection of tales that I’d recommend to fans of mysteries and science fiction alike.

Comments

  1. Think of “Downhill Slide” as a “Choose Your Own Protagonist” story. 😉

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