This twisty thriller comes with an unusual premise that hooked me from the start: it’s set in an alternate world where once people hit adulthood, their ability to make new memories is drastically reduced, resulting in a stratified society where Monos, who can remember only one day prior to today, are second-class citizens to Duos, who can remember the past two days.
If you’re wondering how a murder mystery can possibly work under those conditions, well, I was skeptical too, but for the most part Yap pulls it off. Characters are dependent on their iDiaries (Apple and Steve Jobs are called out by name), which are cell phone-like devices on which they record each day’s events for review later on. Of course, you can see the problem with a system like this--whatever a person chooses to write in their iDiary becomes fact for them in one or two days’ time, regardless of omissions or falsehoods. Hence the detective in the novel always tries his best to solve cases within a single day (which is probably the part I had the toughest time suspending my disbelief about).
Claire and Mark are a rare “mixed” marriage--she’s a Mono, he’s a Duo. A woman’s body is found in the river near their house, and the detective shows up to interview Mark. This stirs up all kinds of trouble, in their private and public lives. Mark is a famous novelist and aspiring politician, and any whiff of scandal could taint his name forever. If he was involved with another woman, let alone implicated in her death, Claire, needless to say, has questions.
I like mysteries and thrillers, but as they can start to all feel the same to me, I’m always looking for ones with a little something extra. The memory-challenged world Yap has created felt fresh, and couldn’t have been easy to execute. If I rated this book using the Olympic gymnastics scoring system, I would rate it very high for starting difficulty and add moderate style points, with a deduction for a slight loss of form in the air. (Tortured metaphor? Perhaps. But I like it! I think I might start rating all books like gymnastic routines. How did I not see before that books and gymnastics are basically the same thing?!)