TROUBLE WALKED IN by Mike Kupari, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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TROUBLE WALKED IN by Mike Kupari, Review

In walked Alexander Wallace...
Two of the most enduring legacies of interwar pulp fiction are science fiction as Hugo Gernsback promoted, and the hard-boiled detective stories of the likes of Raymond Chandler. There were several writers, such as Jack Vance, who worked in both genres, and it was really a matter of time before someone combined them. There have certainly been many cases, but I now speak of a recent one: Trouble Walked In by Mike Kupari, to be published by Baen Books in August 2022.

Kupari does something very clever in writing a first chapter that almost could have been from a classic pulp detective story. It sets the mood of the pastiche very well as it explains to you the stakes and the scenario, with a hard-boiled detective who happens to live on a human colony world orbiting another star. Kupari, however, only drip-feeds you this worldbuilding in the first chapter, focusing instead on the mood of such a detective story. It was a smart move, and I liked it a lot.

The book goes on to give you a nice twisting detective story involving what might be an alien archeological dig on this planet, as well as corporate skullduggery that threatens to unravel so much of what the characters hold dear. There’s an infiltration of a hospital as well as a visit to the seedy nightclubs of this planet’s largest city, all tied together in a manner resembling the deeply necessary and yet very elegant knots on a sailing ship.

Kupari has shown himself to be a deft creator of characters. I will admit that many of them fall into many traditional archetypes of detective fiction, but as George Lucas said:

“Don't avoid the cliches - they are cliches because they work!”

Tropes are tools, and Kupari is a skilled tradesman, deftly creating characters that are easy to get invested in and easy to care for. You will cheer at their successes and commiserate with them in their failures, for they feel oh so real despite living years and parsecs away from us this year.

Trouble Walked In is a genre mashup done very well, taking the best of both of its component parts and creating an experience that is worth more than the sum thereof. It was a delectable surprise, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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