REVIEW: Proximity by Jem Tugwell

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Book Number: N/A

Read this book for: near future setting, sci fi elements, cyberpunk elements, whodunnit thriller, genre crossover, hard-boiled detective

Quick Review: A solid thriller wrapped in an intriguing technological premise — an excellent read for the summer!


You can’t get away with anything. Least of all murder.

DI Clive Lussac has forgotten how to do his job. Ten years of embedded technology – ‘iMe’ – has led to complete control and the eradication of crime. Then the impossible happens. A body is found, and the killer is untraceable. With new partner Zoe Jordan, Clive must re-sharpen his detective skills and find the killer without technology, before time runs out for the next victim…

PROXIMITY is a crime thriller set in a near-future, technology enhanced version of the UK; it incorporates some cyberpunk elements, but at its heart lies a mystery that is enhanced by the sci fi connection.

The most unique element of this novel is that sci fi setting — the iMe system that tracks and polices all behaviour through an implanted system, from location and payments to calorie consumption. Tugwell does a great job of fleshing out the little, unexpected ways that such a system would impact your life, like forcing everyone to be healthier, causing marital strife because you aren’t keeping within your exercise and calorie parameters, and finding little — now illegal — ways to indulge when someone just wants to enjoy comfort food. It’s slightly Orwellian, but Tugwell focusses on how such a system would play out in the day-to-day lives of people rather than on the system itself, and that makes the sci fi element chillingly believable. It also means that the technological element doesn’t overwhelm the book; it only enhances the terror of the mystery.

There are plenty of familiar mystery/thriller elements to be found in this novel as well, which mesh really nicely with the somewhat futuristic premise, including a hard-boiled detective who doesn’t look after himself or his failing marriage, his plucky and hard working junior colleague, a demanding superior officer, and a deranged killer. Even with the sci fi window dressing, this novel boils down to the human element, like all thrillers, and this one does so reasonably well.

After all, this novel, at its heart, is a procedural thriller with a dash of whodunnit. There is a list of suspects and you find yourself guessing as to who the killer might be as the investigation twists and turns. Tugwell has paced this novel well, and you will find yourself turning pages, immersed in the world and desperate to find out whether your guess was correct.

PROXIMITY is a fantastic read to pick up this summer, not just for the topical warning about technology and the problems of too much oversight, but for the good, old-fashioned, page-turning thriller element.

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