Will Shetterly,
(Tor, 2000)

In the future of Will Shetterly's Chimera, genetic engineering has reached the point where human and animal genes can be mixed to produce chimeras, beings that are nearly human, but retain some of the qualities of the animal species from which they were bred. Popularly known as "critters," chimeras must bear tattoos declaring what animal they were bred from because they are slaves -- and dangerous slaves at that, for there is always the danger that a chimera will "werewolf" or suddenly go insane and attack anything that moves.

Private investigator Chase Maxwell meets Zoe Domingo when she interrupts a poker game at the casino Wonderland. She wants to hire him. Not realizing that she is a critter, he accepts her case. Zoe has been accused of murdering her foster mother, Dr. Janna Gold. She wants Maxwell to find the real murderer.

But rather than answers, Maxwell's investigation turns up only more questions. What was the earring that Dr. Gold was carrying and that Zoe took from the murder scene? Why are so many chimeras suddenly werewolfing with no apparent provocation? Who created the murderous androids carrying artificial intelligences and who is reprogramming police robots?

And when Maxwell is framed for the murder of Amos Tauber, who was about to tell them why Dr. Gold was traveling to Los Angeles in the first place, he and Zoe find themselves on the run, with no one to turn to except enigmatic and reclusive scientist Mycroft. But then Maxwell is killed, and all hell really breaks loose!

Chimera is the literary equivalent of genetic splicing between film noir and science fiction with great results. The story is fast-paced and interesting and although the reader may be relatively sure where it's going to end up, there's no clear path for it to get there. The story reminded me somewhat of Emma Bull's Finder in mood and pace, which makes some sort of sense as Shetterly and Bull are husband and wife.

Check out Chimera. You'll be glad you did.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

Buy Chimera from Amazon.com.