The Memory Detective
by T.S. Nichols
Edited by Kate Miciak
Review by Ernest Lilley
Alibi Kindle Edition ISBN/ITEM#: B072L4LKT1
Date: 23 January 2018 / Show Official Info /
Imagine that the technology to retrieve the memories of recently deceased people existed. Maybe you'd want to save the memories of someone you cared about--a spouse, parent, or child. Those aren't the memories that Cole gets. He gets the ones that no one claims because they died alone and friendless, and they died because someone killed them. He's their only hope for justice, and the cost is for him to carry their brutal deaths around inside him, along with their smashed hopes, dreams, and loves. He's the Memory Detective, and it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.
Cole may have been a regular cop once, but now he’s got the memories of fifteen lives that were snuffed out too soon stuck in his head. Memory transfers are commonplace technology, but usually, they're limited to one time only, except that Cole's mind has been sacrificed to take on case after case to find the murders that only the victims can identify. He's the Memory Detective, and his mind is full of tragic death, as well as lives cut short and dreams that will never be fulfilled.
His partners think police work is done by asking questions and following leads, but Cole must put himself where triggers will spark the memories he's been given and hope that the victims can tell him what he needs to know. It's a weird sort of detection, and he rarely gets to keep a partner for more than a case. He's almost completely isolated from the living but haunted by the dead that crowd his mind, and they’re always society's rejects, the poor and unknown.
Not all memories are bad. In fact, some memories are so good they'd be worth killing for. When a string of bodies show up with their minds wiped clean, it's up to Cole to find out where those memories went, and possibly even what his role is in the bigger picture.
The Memory Detective has an interesting premise, though not completely unique. To some degree, the dead have always spoken to the sleuths that seek justice for them, sometimes though the detritus of their lives, sometimes more fancifully through occult means, offering spectral clues to the haunted investigator until their spirits can rest. Cole doesn't get the benefit of closure for his ghosts, unfortunately, but he's gotten addicted to the rush of new memories, even if they're tragic.
This is T.S. Nichols first novel and it's a fair effort, but not as compelling as you might hope. Cole is closed off from the people around him, never explaining why he does what he needs to trigger memories, and that just feels contrived to me. Sure, he's bound to be weird, but no weirder than lots of fictional detectives, like The Finder, Monk, or even Sherlock. The closest he comes to human contact is an ex-girlfriend that's always in the process of saying goodbye, and it's just as hard for the reader to develop an emotional connection to him. This could have been worked as a series, where the detective solved one or two murders each novel, but as it is, it feels like a standalone novel.
As a first effort, it's fair and there are some interesting ideas here, but Nichols is still learning his craft as a writer, so we can hope he doesn't stop here but keeps getting better.