There aren't a lot of really good science fiction crime/mystery stories around (emphasis on the good there) ... high on my faves list for many years has been Larry Niven's Gil "The Arm" Hamilton stories. Like many good things this is quality over quantity ... three novellas and a novel was all there was for a very long time and I've owned the two volumes containing them since my college days. And then, doing a quick browse through the Kobo site the other night, I discovered that a fifth tale had eventually been published and that it was currently available in a e-compilation of the original four plus this never-read-by-me fifth. Yeah, I can live with a little duplication in my library for this (I'll reclaim the bit of shelf space the novella volume takes up 'cause it's just an ordinary paperback, but my copy of the novel is an illustrated-by-Fernando edition and that's staying right here)
Gil Hamilton works for the twenty-second century's United Nations police service, called ARM (Amalgamation of Regional Militia), but that's not where his nickname comes from. The monicker predates his current law enforcement career ... he used to be a miner in the asteroid belt until an accident took his right arm off at the shoulder. Which incident led to him discovering that the phantom sensations most people who lose limbs experience were a little different in his case ... (nope, not telling ... you'll have to read the stories)
ARM primarily deals with three types of major crimes ... to quote Gil himself: "The ARM has three basic functions. We hunt organleggers. We monitor world technology: new developments that might create new weapons or that might affect the world economy or the balance of power among nations. And we enforce the Fertility Laws." Hamilton's cases involve one or a combination of those three and figuring out which is often the key to solving the mystery. It's not all grim consideration of the ethics of transplants and world population ... Hamilton has a rather wry sense of humour, quirky co-workers, an interesting past, and, when their schedules work out, downtime in the company of a very fun woman named Taffy.
This past year we'd managed to cut deep into the organlegging activities in the West Coast area. Pats on the back all around, but the results were predictable: other activities were going to increase. Sooner or later the newspapers would start screaming about stricter enforcement of the Fertility Laws, and then we'd all be out hunting down illegitimate parents ... all of us who were not involved in something else.
It was high time I got involved in something else.
This morning I walked to my office through the usual edgy silence. I ran coffee, carried it to my desk, punched for messages at the computer terminal. A slender file slid from the slot. A hopeful sign. I picked it up one-handed so that I could sip coffee as I went through it and let it fall open in the middle.
Color holographs jumped out at me. I was looking down through a pair of windows over two morgue tables.
Stomach to brain: LURCH! What a hell of an hour to be looking at people with their faces burned off! Get eyes to look somewhere else and don't try to swallow that coffee. Why don't you change jobs?
The five tales in the Gil Hamilton series are:
Death by Ecstasy
The Defenseless Dead
(these first three are novellas co-published as The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton ... and that cover was painted by somebody who appears to have read one random sentence out of the stories without following up on the details so it's not accurate re Hamilton's upper limb status)
The Patchwork Girl (the novel)
The Woman in Del Rey Crater (the new-to-me story!)
The five-tale compilation is titled Flatlander (cover by yet another didn't-really-READ-the-stories artist ... and it's the wrong arm as well ... a shame 'cause an accurate portrait of what the guy can do while in a spacesuit would have been SO much cooler)