by M.H. Mead
Calines are the perfect pets. Smarter than border collies, playful as otters, elegant as cats, calines have been genetically engineered to be everything a pet owner could want.Except that they might kill you one day. The world is shocked when geneticist Ivan Frithke is murdered, and his own pet caline, Madeline, is the prime suspect. Is this an isolated case, a flaw in the calines’ design, or something more? The widow doesn’t believe her darling could kill, and hires PI Aidra Scott to prove Madeline’s innocence. Aidra wants nothing to do with animals—genetically engineered perfection or not. Losing her beloved Doberman was so painful that she’s sworn off pet ownership forever. But the more she investigates, the more Aidra becomes convinced an innocent animal is being framed, and murder is only the beginning of the conspiracy.
The Caline Conspiracy by M.H. Mead is a science fiction novel, set in the not so distant future of Detroit. Mead spins an intriguing tale of suspense and mystery as her protagonist, PI Aidra Scott, sets out to prove a genetically created pet is innocent of a vicious crime. She captured my attention from the first few pages and I consumed this in one evening.
The tale begins when geneticist Ivan Frithke is found murdered. His pet Madeline, a caline, is the prime suspect. The police believe this to be an open and shut case. The widow, however, doesn’t believe sweet Madeline is capable of such a deed. She begs Aidra Scott to take on the case. While desperate for the income, single mom and PI extraordinaire Aidra wants nothing to do with any case involving animals. After losing her Doberman, Nutmeg, she cannot stand to be around them. The widow dangles more money. The current creator of the caline raises her suspicions when he doesn’t want her investigating. Curiosity takes hold and she finds herself in the middle of things. The tale that unfolds is fast-paced and filled with twists. The more Aidra investigates the more she is convinced something sinister is afoot.
Mead presents some interesting characters. Aidra tries to be a hip mom to her teenage son and is very inquisitive. She has made a career for herself as a somewhat successful private investigator. She has issues but isn’t afraid to face things head on. I adored Morris, her computer hacker and would love to read more about him. He was hilarious and his use of technology was smashing. Other characters were; Jon, Aidra’s son, her sister Quinn, Tawny a teenage girl and members of the Caline Company. We also meet Edo a scientist and developer from a rival company. They make Pericats a genetically engineered pet. Aidra and Edo share an awkward scene when she is exposed to one of the pericats.
The tale and world that Mead creates had elements that reminded me of old dime store detective novels and steampunk. In this futuristic world, there are holographs, everything is wired and science is on the cusp of new inventions. Genetics is a huge industry and a controversial one. Caline and its competitor Pericats are creating the perfect pets and are involved in some groundbreaking advancements in cell manipulation. Meanwhile, picket lines are forming and sides are being drawn. The US has banned most procedures, causing citizens to travel to Canada for treatments. While delivering a mystery, Mead raises questions about the advancement of science. This would make a great club read as it begs for discussions. This novel wasn’t without flaws. I questioned some of the story-line and teeter between wanting more information or thinking scenes should have been cut. The writing style was good, and the tale was well paced.
I would recommend the Caline Conspiracy to fans of science fiction and PI mysteries. This was an easy and entertaining read. M.H. Mead has also written; Fate’s Mirror and Good Fences. I look forward to reading more from this author.
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