While The Mimicking of Known Successes (2023) isn’t precise wheelhouse reading for me, it’s still an accomplished piece, providing further evidence of Malka Older’s restless versatility. Set in the deep future on a memorably depicted Jupiter, the story involves a Sherlock Holmesian detective named Mossa. Mossa catches an intriguing case when a man goes missing from a remote platform settlement. Her investigation reunites her with the Watsonian Pleiti (our narrator), an academic whose research contributes to a project to return humankind to Earth, which has suffered an environmental cataclysm. The missing man appears to have been a colleague of Pleiti’s, giving the two former lovers an opportunity to work together on a mystery that may rekindle their romance.
The Mimicking of Known Successes blends a classic, cozy-mystery plot with sense-of-wonder hard SF. It’s an unlikely but effective pairing that couches serious cautionary subject matter in a comforting but forward-thinking package. The specific tone of the piece—its thoughtful, quiet procedural paces, the subdued romantic subplot, the strangely beautiful and foreboding setting—weren’t entirely captivating for me. But the narrative unfolds efficiently, with a confident voice and an impressive command of an affirming, positive theme.