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Wednesday 10 August 2022

‘Red Dirt Girl’ by C.A. Lupton

Published by The Book Guild,
28 January 2022.
ISBN: 978-1-91391387-8 (PB)

 It would be inhuman…not to intervene to prevent weakness and disease...

Red Dirt Girl is set in a future world that is arid and, in many places, uninhabitable.  Where human beings can survive, space is precious and birth control essential.  This has enabled a company called Gencom to create The Program, to ensure that only strong, healthy babies are born.  It also, of course, confers on the corporation unprecedented power over peoples’ lives.  Being accepted onto the Program confers financial and social benefits, it has also led to a dangerously divided society.  As biological transformations advance and laborious tasks are completed by robots, society is rapidly degenerating, and resistance groups are springing up.

Detective Cooper-Clarke is considering his own application to the Program.  Coop, as he is known, is an old-fashioned cop, hooked on Sherlock Holmes and working on a contract basis within a police service that, along with the rest of society, is becoming increasingly dominated by technology.  He knows that his role within a legal system that has succumbed to utopian groupthink is tenuous and that he might soon be replaced by a “lawbot.”  Coop’s “journey” through the Program is accelerating just as his ever-decreasing caseload is coming to an end when his boss asks him to investigate the death of a young woman.  The girl was initially believed to have committed suicide, but the body appears to have been staged and other inexplicable facts relating to her demise have surfaced.  As Coop delves deeper into the unexplained death, he finally gets a case that resembles one that might have come straight out of the pages of the “consulting detective” himself.

This novel is full of surprises as it blends science fiction with crime fiction in a world that it is all too easy to imagine in the twenty-first century.  Alongside the fascinating character of Coop himself are a group of young people trying to make sense of the techno maniacal world in which they find themselves.  The protagonists are all engaging and depicted with empathy. The plot is sharp and the writing crisp as the narrative explores the implications of post-modern eugenics and the individuals that variously accept, question and, in some cases, violently oppose the new order.

Red Dirt Girl is engaging, gripping and kept me guessing until the end.  The world C.A. Lupton has created depicts is uncomfortably recognisable and perhaps that’s why I particularly loved the nod to Conan-Doyle.  Coop’s character is one of several that provide a welcome panacea to the algorithmic approach to solving just about everything, including crime. Thoroughly enjoyable and highly recommended.

Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

C. A. Lupton spent her working life in the health sciences, the first 30 years in a university research unit and the final ten years as a research commissioner for the then English Department of Health. She is now retired and lives on the South coast with her family and no other animals. Carol has long admired the potential of grounded or ‘social’ sci fi to highlight, if not presage, some of the major threats and opportunities open to the human species. Red Dirt Girl, her debut novel, explores the ‘real and present danger’ presented by human genetic engineering.

Dot Marshall-Gent worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.  

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