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McAuley, Paul - 'Players'
Paperback: 536 pages (May 2008) Publisher: Pocket Books ISBN: 1416511407

One of the many reasons for reading and enjoying books by Paul McAuley is that the science-speak of this former professional biologist is real. PLAYERS, first published in 2007, is no exception. It is a bit of a change of pace for this author, but is still extremely highly recommended.

It starts with the suspicious disappearance of a young woman from Portland, USA. She is found in Cedar Falls, a long way from home, naked and badly injured, but dies before the paramedics can get her to hospital. An anonymous tip-off leads the police to her kidnapper and the case is seemingly solved. But it is far from over. A young detective, Summer Ziegler, and her associate, Denise Childers, have other ideas and set out to discover the truth. Then another body is found in the Nevada desert and, as tests identify this one as being the dead girl's boyfriend, all is clearly not as straightforward as was originally thought.

Meanwhile, living in his own fantasy world and convinced he is the first of a new super-human species, is psychopath and online computer game aficionado, Dirk Merrit. Merrit, who has undergone extreme plastic surgery in order to resemble an Overlord, - a character from his own online creation, Trans,- enjoys hunting 'pilgrims'. These are people, mostly young males, that he lures to his home with promises of help with the final stages of his game. Summer and Denise are convinced that the eccentric Merrit is somehow behind the murders. Trouble is, how to go about getting the proof - especially with Merrit now playing games with them too.

This book is just so well written: an elaborate plot that provides a heady mixture of hard-graft detective work and forensics, coupled nicely with the knock-on effects of childhood bullying and the consequences of greed. Multi-talented McAuley is as skilled at writing crime thrillers as he is at science fiction. As is typical of all his work, characters in PLAYERS are so well developed you start to think they might be real people. Personally, I can't wait to see what this author is going to come up with next!

Read another review of PLAYERS.

Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland
June 2008

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 27/11/2011 10:21