In the year 2013, capital punishment has been outlawed, but serious criminals may be sentenced to "punitive coma" -- drugged into a temporary and reversible or utterly permanent vegetative state. England has been chosen for a pilot project to identify and track male citizens who are genetically predisposed to be aggressively violent, called the Lombroso program. A serial killer appears to be stalking and killing these individuals in London, though their anonymity was supposed to be guaranteed, and sealed into computer records. Detective Chief Inspector Isadora Jakowicz, a gynocide expert and incidental man-hater known familiarly as "Jake," is assigned to the case. Kerr creates an excellent, whole society of the near future, and gives us the killer's journal excerpts as he and Jake (also a marvelous fictional character) work their way toward their inevitable showdown. Since his Lombroso-assigned code name is "Wittgenstein," the killer takes on some of the ideas of his namesake, and Jake brings in a philosophy professor to help her on the case. Kerr also likens his two antagonists to each other in various ways (at one point, each quotes Eliot's "Prufrock," at another Sherlock Holmes). This 1992 novel is a highly thoughtful, complex, and rewarding science fiction techno-thriller.
This report prepared by David Loftus