The Preserve by Ariel S Winter
Decimated by plague, the human population is now a minority. Robots—complex AIs almost indistinguishable from humans—are the ruling majority. Nine months ago, in a controversial move, the robot government opened a series of preserves, designated areas where humans can choose to live without robot interference. Now the preserves face their first challenge: someone has been murdered.
Chief of Police Jesse Laughton on the SoCar Preserve is assigned to the case. He fears the factions that were opposed to the preserves will use the crime as evidence that the new system does not work. As he digs for information, robots in the outside world start turning up dead from bad drug-like programs that may have originated on SoCar land. And when Laughton learns his murder victim was a hacker who wrote drug-programs, it appears that the two cases might be linked. Soon, it’s clear that the entire preserve system is in danger of collapsing. Laughton’s former partner, a robot named Kir, arrives to assist on the case, and they soon uncover shocking secrets revealing that life on the preserve is not as peaceful as its human residents claim. But in order to protect humanity’s new way of life, Laughton must solve this murder before it’s too late.
Chief Jesse Laughton has taken a post in this small, human preserve to have a more quite life with his family. However, this murder investigation soon takes a dangerous path. And his former robot parter, Kir, arrives to assist as their investigations seem to intersect.
The Preserve is a scifi, procedural, mystery. I loved the premise, and was not disappointed. The plot was clever and complex, with seedy characters and plenty of suspense. I really enjoyed the relationship between the former partners – Laughton and Kir. They share a history that isn’t even hinted at, but they share warmth and humor with obvious affection. I’d love to read about their cases, back when they were partners. The setting, a world where robots have taken over, immediately brought me in. And the whodunnit kept me guessing till the very end. This is a standalone, but I’d love to read more stories set in this fascinating world.