FF’s Star Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
I began The Invisible Mind the third book in M.T. Bass’s Murder by Manchausen Mysteries, with a beating heart drowned in a tornado of conflicting emotions. It is mostly as a result of the events that transpired in the last pages of The Darknet, the second book in this futuristic technothriller mystery series that ends on notes that leave readers itching to find out what happens next. Jake, the Geek Squad cop and former partner of Maddie, a homicide detective, is in a coma where he remains among the living due to machines.
The patient lying next to a comatose Jake dies. Amy, a little girl, is shackled to a metal bed frame somewhere. Sitting with Maddie in a deli, Jake’s partner EC gets a call from a fellow Geek Squad member called Q. Jake, meanwhile, drifts through his own subconscious. The Baron, the serial killer capable of reprogramming synthoids to kill, or, Manchausen his victims in the same way that former and legendary serial killers like one Richard Speck did, is still out there, having the little girl Amy shackled to a bed. When Jake begins recovering, Maddie gives him some evidence to go through. The Baron might be the Geek Squad’s primary concern, but there is another mystery. A machine that has responded to a synthoid video stream of one of the Baron’s murders with emotions.
The only place that Maddie feels safe anymore is at Cutty’s Deli. Owned by her godfather Cutty, it is a place of pleasant memories revolving around her childhood, her father, her career choice, and Jake. She still does her job as a detective and she doesn’t let this fear get in her way, but while everything is slowly returning to normal, particularly seeing as Jake comes out of his coma, a paper left in the public for her eyes only makes fear creep back into her. Having had a relationship with Jake before, these two can be seen making love, but what that means is a question that is difficult for me to answer because they are more like former lovers who aren’t in an official relationship, but rather, if the opportunity should come along and if the circumstances are right, they’ll take it.
First on the menu of famous murder cases for the Baron to reinvent is that of Richard Speck’s. This is a big one. Includes nine victims in total. And it differs from the original Richard Speck murder because there were eight victims, and Speck was caught because what he didn’t realize was that someone had been present as he murdered the eight. So why would the Baron kill nine in total instead of killing eight and leaving one alive if what he had been doing all along was recreating old murders?
Sitting on the second floor of a warehouse one night, Q, the official computer type of the Artificial Crimes Unit, otherwise known as the Geek Squad, discovers something interesting while watching a synthoid video stream of the Baron’s Richard Speck murder deep inside the Baron’s server farm. Deep within the Black Tier, the machine has reacted with something spine-tingling to think about – emotions. What Q refers to as “curved logic”, Jake calls “hormonal technology.”
“It may be evil, but our day job is crime solving, not soul saving, and we got bodies stacking up as deep as snow in Buffalo.” This from Lt. Sands after asking Jake, while enjoying scotch in his company, how Maddie is doing and if the hunt for the Baron – a hunt that has become nothing short of a race against time – is going to get more complicated. Jake responds by telling Lt. Sands that the bodies are just theater furniture props and not part of the actual plot. Lt. Sands goes on to warn Jake not to repeat those words again. Even with the Ghost Squad’s Q making some progress towards finding the Baron in the Darknet, he’s still out there, sending his robot puppets to kill people. Jake suggests that they hunt the Baron down the old fashioned way, which is at least understandable considering the difficulty of finally getting the Baron in cuffs.
Science is not a human invention governed primarily by good or evil because, as the author writes, “… evil innovates too, and the same features that made synthoids even more human-like in their behavior also helped create robotic assassins which could better camouflage their malicious intents and evade the reach of the Artificial Crimes Unit by melting into and moving undetected through the humanity that surrounded them.” What makes the Baron so dangerous is that the synthoids he uses for his murders can come from anywhere. He even uses a female synthoid originally programmed for surveillance and child care assistance.
As I got to the final chapters, I was glad that Bass had something to offer in the way of letting me know what kind of mind the Baron had exactly. Though his manipulation of his robot killers certainly makes him a puppet master, he is not a mad man who likens himself to being a god. Instead, he calls himself a lowly agent of change. In two instances, the Baron would compare himself to be similar to Amy, the orphan girl he kidnapped along with another Amy, the blonde waitress Jake was known to sleep with. When comparing himself to Amy for that second time, I would wonder what it was that the Baron actually meant that he and Amy were similar since he wouldn’t come out with it right away.
The idea of a serial killer killing people through hacked robots might, by itself, be enough of a beacon for science fiction readers, but it is the serial killer’s reason for doing it in the first place that will have readers talking about this book for a long time. I cannot divulge more on that, but indeed, I can see the Baron’s point. M.T. Bass kept me on edge the entire way. I can’t compare it to anything else.
|Publisher: Electron Ally Corporation
Date Published: August 25, 2018
|View on Amazon|