By Mike Glyer: G.M. Nair begins Duckett and Dyer: Dicks for Hire by making a surprising choice. His introductory scene explicitly reveals to readers the true nature of the mysterious events that the protagonists themselves uncover only very slowly throughout the first half of the book. The introduction might even be the penultimate scene in the book — which would make sense in a story that is partly about time travel loops. Good idea or bad idea?
Good idea, I think. The introduction serves as a kind of I.O.U. to keep readers’ hopes alive while Nair’s protagonists Michael Duckett and Stephanie Dyer fight a delaying action against becoming involved in the story Nair wants to tell. My Kindle showed I was 38% through the book before the duo decided to engage the problem that the story has been shoving in their faces since the beginning.
The time is spent developing the title characters, and setting a burnt-out noir style police detective on a parallel track. And delivering some laughs, because this Self-Published Science Fiction Competition finalist is also a humorous sf novel.
Michael Duckett works for an ominous corporation in a petty job. His roommate and best friend since childhood, Stephanie Dyer, is a jobless slacker as well as a free spirit — always ready to jump first and look where she’s landing second.
And Detective Rex Calhoun’s failing career takes a further turn for the worst when a suspect he’s about to grab vanishes in a blast of lightning and a clap of thunder.
Their paths will soon cross. Just when Duckett and Dyer are desperate to pay the rent they start getting a rash of calls to find missing people and do other P.I. work – because an unknown someone has been advertising their Detective Agency all over the city. Which is quite a surprise for Duckett and Dyer, who didn’t have an agency…before Stephanie impulsively decides, why not seize the chance to do some business?
As for Calhoun, when his suspect vanished one item was left behind — a taunting note that suggests an unknown someone orchestrated that event, too.
Following their respective leads, Duckett, Dyer, and Calhoun discover a web of missing people whose fates seem linked by a local theoretical physicist and his experiments with the fabric of space-time. And bungling their encounter with him, our faux private investigators precipitate their own disappearance. They’ll have to peel away some of the layers of the multiverse and visit some bizarre destinations if they ever hope to find the guiding hand behind these events and get home. (A Heinlein fan might even like to think of this book as the Wrong Number of the Beast.)
It’s hard to do sf humor and even harder to sustain it the length of a book. But all through the author got unexpected laughs out of me and deserves credit for that.
This whirl through the multiverse with a side order of time travel is entertaining. And the introduction is not quite the end of the story – the real ending averts a tragic outcome and returns Duckett and Dyer safely back where they belong. A revelation that can’t be too much of a spoiler — after all, this is the first in a three-book series.