Review: The Darknet by M.T. Bass

FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

The Darknet by M.T. Bass is the second book in the Murder by Munchausen Mysteries series, offering readers of the very first book a brand new outlook on Bass’s futuristic synthetic humanoid filled world. A world in which people can murder other people by getting a reprogrammer to get an android to do the deed. In the first book, the first person narrator was Jake of the malfunctioning android hunting Geek Squad. His former Robbery/Homicide detective partner, the attractive Maddie, takes over the wheel here.

The Baron is still at large and he is hidden somewhere in what is called the Darknet. Much to her dismay, Maddie is partners once again with Jake since the killer killing her victims might be one and the same. The victims that turn up seem to be replicas to victims murdered a long time ago. As for the murderers whose acts are being copied, these were famous killers who were never caught. Maddie soon learns that the Baron isn’t your ordinary robot hacker since he doesn’t need to be physically close to one to hack it. This alone makes him more dangerous than either Maddie or Jake first thought he was. Like the first three historical serial killers he copies, will he escape justice as well?

Though she and Jake have officially been made partners in the very beginning of the book, she turns out to be somewhat possessive of that particular crime scene. Judging by how she clenches her eyes shut and shakes her head after Jake flashes her with a crooked smile, it’s obvious that she doesn’t like the idea of partnering up with Jake again. “I followed him out to the tree, but stood back behind him ten feet or so to give him some space as he stared at the concrete block pier where the murder took place.” On a beach, someone is bludgeoned to death, and Jake takes a look, bringing back a familiar feeling to Maddie as the author gives us a glimpse of their history as partners.

Maddie is a homicide detective unfortunately burdened with walking around with two bad memories in her head and both of them have triggers that can sour her mood a bit. The words “a walk in the park” brings back the memory of Jake following a councilman’s son into a parking garage with a Glock and the sound of Jake’s eM&P pistol easily takes her back to almost loosing her life when a synthoid, thanks to the Baron, attacked her. Finding difficulty at making any progress at one point while looking through the Baron’s case files, Maddie decides to put one of Jake’s many dubious claims to the test. After this, we see her revisiting the crime scene where she almost lost her life.

Though he works for Geek Squad, I wouldn’t exactly dub Jake a geek. The man might not be a big fan of SWAT teams and some of the SWAT guys might yank his chain a bit, but he drives a Mustang! The man is also blessed with the ability to summon a solid poker face and he is a human storeroom full of dubious and all-knowing claims such as the one that Maddie tries to prove wrong. Maddie had gotten involved with him despite her father’s advice not to get involved with a cop. Though they’re not “together”, visiting each other off duty is a normal thing for them.

“Remember, I told you that a Manchausen had to be created hands-on by modifying the hardware and firmware.” The Baron has the Geek Squad scratching their craniums quite a bit about how exactly it is that he manages to reprogram his killer synthoids without even getting up, close, and personal with them. I liked him as an antagonist because he made things really difficult for the good guys. Further questions about the Baron pop up along the way that, if the author gives readers a certain answer, it would mean that Maddie and the Geek Squad had be wrong about who and what the Baron actually was. I can’t divulge anything about his identity, but what I can tell you is that the truth will knock one of the good guys for a loop.

It happens that a solitary figure sitting in the deserted stands of a derby track is spotted. In my mind’s eye, alarm bells obviously went off and I thought that Maddie and Jake would try to catch this guy immediately. Because who else could it be other than the Baron? I was in for too much salt on my chips on that one because no chase was given. Later, at a different occasion, the author does put a chase in motion, but it does not bode well for the hunter in that instance.

What the author dives into primarily is the idea that the past is a thing that always comes back up to the surface. Given enough time, of course. One of the killers being replicated by the hacker is a man who was known as The Black Dahlia, or the Torso Murderer. A serial killer from the 1930s who cut off his victims’ heads. Readers of the first book will remember that a famous killer being copied was Jack the Ripper, the world’s first serial killer. The victims to be found are all murdered in ways that are horrible to imagine. The author certainly took this book up a notch from its predecessor.

Laying out muted movements and hushed conversations, a murder scene is its own kind of circus and Bass is good at showing readers what atmosphere murder detectives usually find themselves in while also illustrating the effect a crime scene has on the victim associated with it. While it doesn’t have as much of a science fiction feel to it as the first, this second installment gets the work done, promising readers and enjoyable cruise through gory crime scenes, killer robots, and a clever villain who always seems to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.

Kindle Edition:

Publisher: Electron Alley Corporation
Date Published: February 2, 2018
Genre: Technothrillers
Pages: 212
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