Thank you to author Dave Terruso for providing me with a copy of Artificial Detective and Shell Game in exchange for this honest review.
Artificial Detective Book 1
Artificial Detective is the first of a spin off series branching from the Off World Hotel & Resort series. Both are science fiction featuring a sentient Artificial Intelligence (AI) named Coba. In Off World, she helps her first human friend solve a murder mystery. Now, Coba has become a renowned sleuth in her own right. The latest book takes her to the Moon’s first colony for a case.
In the interest of full disclosure I have been a beta reader for all of the Off World and Artificial Detective books thus far. Keep this in mind as my experience with the book will be different from a reader with fresh eyes. By the time I read the review copy of this novel I had already read the three previous ones twice, and this one once before. You may be able to imagine that being this familiar with a series might cause a little burnout.
Artificial Detective is designed to be read by all readers, not just those familiar with the previous series. Since it is a standalone the beginning of this mystery novel contains some exposition that may feel redundant to those who have recently read Off World. However, if you are a new reader this will help catch you up on who Coba is, how she functions, and how a robot can have so much heart.
The first half of the book involves a lot of stage setting. We are introduced to the characters, the murder mystery that needs to be solved, and the setting in which it will occur. It is important to remember that this is Book 1 and it is very much an introduction to what will come next.
The story picks up in the second half once clues start to fall into place. As Coba attempts to solve the first murder to ever occur on Earth’s moon she struggles to learn how to interpret the human concept of motive. She understands how to analyze details, how to link clues and put things in order through deductive reasoning, but she is still trying to understand why people do what they do.
AIs are highly intelligent but there is no accounting for the random acts of humans. It is entertaining to see Coba slowly learn the workings of human minds, especially when it comes to comparing a “regular” person with one who is perhaps psychotic.
Author Terruso has a talent for bringing out the human in all characters. His dialogue is natural, complete with slang and casual mannerisms, that rings much more true to life than formally crafted speech patterns. We can also see differences in how the humans talk versus the AIs.
As mentioned before, Artificial Detective is a Book 1. So this volume does end on a cliff hanger. Be prepared for this and know that Book 2 is being written as you read this so you won’t have to wait very long to read what happens next. The ending is quite exciting and you’ll definitely be wondering where Coba will go from here.
I believe Book 2 will surpass this volume in that it will be able to pick up right where the action leaves off. The reader won’t be expecting a recap from the other series at this point and will be able to fully dive in to the story at hand. This series could be thought of more like a television miniseries than a serial.
Please let me know in the comments if you solved the mystery before Coba did!
4/5 robots 🤖🤖🤖🤖
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Artificial Detective 2: Shell Game
The sequel to the review above has officially been released! I was not a beta reader for this one so I was able to read the published version nice and fresh. This review will likely contain spoilers for the first book of the series.
In the review for the first book I said that I thought the sequel would surpass it by being able to jump into the story without having to include exposition from the Off World Hotel & Resort series from which it spins off. Unfortunately, I cannot say that Shell Game is superior.
The sequel picks up where the first left off with Coba going to Earth to find rogue AI Aiden before he can do some serious harm. She doesn’t know exactly what his plans are just that he definitely has ill intent against Coba and all humans.
This mystery will be deeply personal to Coba as Aiden starts to kidnap all of the remaining characters from the Off World series. She is surprised to be paired up with her favorite mystery author to determine who amongst the kidnapees has been possessed by Aiden’s murderous intelligence.
The mystery she’s meant to solve has been intentionally designed to mimic one of the author’s thrillers. They intend on using what they know about the books and the players to solve the mystery without anyone dying in the process. Aiden is determined to see Coba kill one of her beloved humans just to prove a point. Also, he’s pretty twisted.
The bulk of the book involves flashbacks or recaps of the first Artificial Detective story. Coba uses interrogations to determine who is still themselves and this involves knowing a lot of what happened before this story takes place. This strategy makes perfect sense and it’s reasonable that this would involve redundancies from the first book, but it doesn’t make for a very exciting read.
Terruso’s previous mysteries had me turning pages as fast as my eyes could move but this one had me skimming lines. I’m sorry to say it just doesn’t stand on its own and barely suffices as a full sequel. To be frank, it reads like a clip show.
Do not let Artificial Detective 2: Shell Game deter you from Terruso’s other works. I’ve said this before about prolific authors and I doubt my opinion will change, when you write a lot and are willing to try new things you have a few misses. This is actually a good thing. I know some people are content to read the same airport thriller over and over again just with different titles but I like some variety.
Read the original Off World trilogy to see what you’re missing and be prepared for a lot more thought provoking reads from this author.
3/5 robots 🤖🤖🤖