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by Paul Johnston
St. Martin's Press, August 1999
272 pages
ISBN: 0312202792

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Quintillian Dalrymple is a defrocked guardsman in the independent city-state of Edinburgh in the year 2020. He is content with his life as a laborer, who occasionally searches for missing persons, until one morning, he is summoned to the Council. A guardsman has been found dead. It's the first murder in the city in five years, and Quint is the only man with the ability to solve the crime. He was Bell 03, a man headed for higher status, until a day five years previously, when he met the Ear, Nose and Throat man, a murderer who cut off the ears and blocked the noses of his victims, strangled them with a ligature, and sodomized them. Quint is brought to the Guardians of the city who request him to find the murderer, who they think is the ENT man, but Quint knows it can't be, since he killed and buried him 5 years earlier, against all regulations. Quint accepts the assignment and the clues lead to the highest levels of government.

If you can imagine a bleak, dark city dedicated to entertaining tourists' basest desires, where certain kinds of music is banned, where television is banned, where private cars are banned, where local dialects are banned, where sex is just another commodity, where there are no personal computers, you have imagined the Edinburgh of 2020, a sort of combination of 1984 and some of the more bizarre imaginings of Philip K. Dick, with perhaps a bit of Aldous Huxley thrown in. The setting is a character in the story. Electricity and water are in short supply, but there is enough for daily needs and more than enough for the tourists, who support the economy of Edinburgh. There is free lifelong education for all, except for the demoted, and religion is approved within guidelines.

Body Politic is reminiscent of the best of science-fiction of the middle third of the last century but it is a modern tale of sex and violence as well. A question that remains unanswered is that of the Friday execution, a show of hangings of historical criminals from Edinburgh's past....or are they just a show? Thanks to Thalia of Crime in Store in London for pointing me to this series.

Reviewed by Barbara Franchi, February 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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