Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo is an interesting story that works on multiple levels.
The Vacation Jury Duty system sends jurors to an exotic location with the catch that they have to daily watch court proceedings through a virtual reality device in preparation for rendering a verdict. Failure to do so, or to break any of the rules, could leave you on the hook for paying for the vacation yourself.
The trial involves a death, ostensibly by an automated kitchen that shouldn’t be able to harm a person without outside interference. This has led to a wife being charged for the murder of her husband. The case seems like a slam dunk, but doubt begins to creep in.
By having a murder trial as the central mystery in the story, Pontecorvo is able to layer in the science fiction elements crucial to the setting of the novel. Initially the trial seems to be an excuse to explore this future society but gradual the trial itself develops a sense of intrigue.
The story is told through the eyes of one of the jurors, Julio, who like the reader, is at first less interested in the trial, but gradually becomes drawn in. He is simultaneously trying to maximize his vacation and catch the eye of an attractive woman he suspects of being a fellow juror. The trial becomes very interesting, if not conclusive. Combined with the structure of the jury system itself and the dynamic nature of the jury deliberations (also conducted through virtual reality) there is a lot of intrigue in the story.
Pontecorvo manages to pack a lot into this short quick read. Interesting plotlines as well as an interesting central character. I didn’t mind that not everything was wrapped up neatly. Nevertheless, the very end seemed a little abrupt and had characters behaving in a way I found a little jarring.
This is a quick entertaining read packed with a lot of ideas, solid writing and interesting characters. I’ll be certain to keep an eye out for future stories by Meg Pontecorvo. Highly recommended.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.
Description: With the Vacation Jury Duty system, jurors can lounge on a comfortable beach while watching the trial via virtual reality. Julio is loving the beach, as well as the views of a curvy fellow juror with a rainbow-lacquered skin modification who seems to be the exact opposite of his recent ex-girlfriend back in Chicago. Because of jury sequestration rules, they can’t talk to each other at all, or else they’ll have to pay full price for this Acapulco vacation. Still, Julio is desperate to catch her attention. But while he struts and tries to catch her eye, he also becomes fascinated by the trial at hand.