In the Face by Lorelei Armstrong

When a famous movie star appears to have dumped a body on his plastic surgeon’s balcony, a simulation-obsessed detective delves into a seamy world where there are no limits to what people will do for fame.

Babies getting plastic surgery–that’s all I needed to hear to get interested in Lorelei Armstrong’s debut, In the Face. Melding a hard-boiled style in the tradition of James M. Cain and Andrew Vachss with a cyberpunk sensibility, Armstrong delivers a fast-moving, intellectually stimulating thriller with a strong story at its center.

In the Face is set in a vaguely futuristic world, where “shapers” work on young babies in the hopes of achieving physical perfection. Evo Selig is the biggest shaping success, and has become a huge movie star. There are countless bootleg “simulations” that show Evo doing just about everything a person could want him to do, and so when a sim appears that shows Evo dumping a body, it’s fairly easy to prove that it wasn’t Evo. Except Evo keeps pretending like it was him, and Detective MacEvoy finds he has a PR nightmare to contend with in addition to a messy murder investigation.

I loved the ideas that Armstrong created for In the Face, and she does an outstanding job of not letting them overwhelm the narrative. The book is a perfect blend of LA Confidential and Neuromancer, a quick and dirty read that has me hoping Armstrong is hard at work on her next book.

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