Murder mysteries have so many moving pieces that have to fit together perfectly. There have to be plausible clues, compelling suspects, and a satisfying but unexpected ending. Adding in new technologies—like spaceships and time travel—along with alien species who may have unusual abilities, science fiction murder mysteries take both genres to a whole new level.
Here is our list of eight science fiction murder mysteries taking place everywhere from cyberspace to outer space.
The Paradox Hotel
We all have good and bad days. Well, January Cole’s days are just getting worse. She works as a detective at the Paradox Hotel, which caters to tourists who travel into the past. It’s bad enough that she gets an important summit dropped on her last minute, but she’s having difficulty keeping the present time, thanks to too much time travel.
When she finds a body in a hotel room, she knows something is off, because no one—not even her annoying robot companion—can see it. Accidents and other malfunctions begin to take place throughout the hotel. And for some reason, all time travel trips are getting delayed, so people are getting cranky. Cole has to figure out who the dead person is, why she’s the only one who can see them, and who is responsible for the death. All while staying in the present moment, of course.
Make Room! Make Room!
Harrison’s 1966 dystopian novel was the basis of the infamous movie Soylent Green. It is 1999, and humanity has used the planet up. The US government is broken; NYC has 35 million people, and everything is scarce, including meat and water. With space at a premium, Andy Rusch, a police detective, has to share a room with Sol, an engineer. Rusch is on the trail of a murderer of a local businessman and ends up involved with the man’s former mistress. Can Rusch bring the murderer to justice and protect the dame? Or is she involved?
The Psychology of Time Travel
The world would know three of their names. There were four women scientists who made the first time travel machine, but when one of them has a nervous breakdown, she’s thrown off the team. Her contributions are lost, and history moves on.
Ruby knows her grandmother, Barbara (or Granny Bee), was part of the team, but when Granny Bee receives a newspaper clipping about a murdered woman from the future, Ruby fears it’s her grandmother. She decides to figure out what happened in the future and how to stop it. The story is told from shifting perspectives, exploring how the possibility of meeting your old and future selves might impact your state of mind.
The Legacy of Lehr
Blue space cats with psychic powers? What else can you ask for? Well, the people of the space cruise hadn’t in this 1988 science fiction novel. Their ship has been forced to carry these blue cats by Imperial agents who want to bring them to the Emperor. Then people start dying. Are the cats the cause of it all? Or will investigators Mather Seton and Wallis Hamilton figure out who is responsible for these deaths?
Queen of Angels
This 1990 novel is a good one for folks interested in the psychology of killers and the philosophy of consciousness. Set in the near future with a probe off to Alpha Centauri, a famous poet named Emmanuel Goldsmith decides to murder eight of his friends, but no one knows why. The book follows the detective who is tracking him down, the therapist trying to understand why Goldsmith did it, one of his almost-victims who has to come to grips with his own life, and an evolving Artificial Intelligence that is on a probe to Alpha Centauri. It’s the first in a four-book series.
Tea from an Empty Cup
Set after a series of natural disasters, people can escape their lives into the world of Artificial Reality (AR). But you can die there, too. Dore Konstantin, a police detective, investigates a murder of a young man in an AR parlor who died the same way in real life as in AR. She decides that the only way to figure out what happened is by diving into his AR life. The story is intertwined with Yuki, who is looking for her boyfriend who has disappeared and may have been pulled into the orbit of Joy Flower, who has her own posse. Both Yuki and Konstantin will find there’s much bigger fish to fry in the world of AR. There is a second book in the series and some loosely based novellas.
Lieutenant Amanda Bostick and her team set off to a distant planet colony to find out why 16 scientists are dead, and no one bothered to report their bodies. They are going in blind with little information about the planet and the project, and very little time to answer the questions. Why are the scientists dead? Why did no one notice? What is really going on this planet?
You've Got Murder
We’ve had detectives going into space, the past and future, as well as into cyberspace. Here the detective is a computer. In the first of four books, Turing Hopper is an Artificial Intelligence Personality whose specialty is mysteries. But when her creator, Zach, doesn’t show up for a couple of days, her circuitry and training suggests that something is amiss. She strives to investigate, even though she does not have a movable physical form. Can she get to the bottom of this mystery, or will she fizzle out?