Past Crimes

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Pub Date 06 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2024

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When death becomes entertainment, every life has a price. And Cassie West is about to find out how much hers is worth . . . Ready Player One meets Black Mirror in this stunning speculative thriller set in a future world in which virtual reality isn't just a game, it's daily life.

"Pinter's accessible speculative story will appeal to fans of Ernest Cline’s enduring hit, Ready Player One" Booklist Starred Review

"A tense, unputdownable near-future thriller" Guardian

"Dark, gritty, and suspenseful . . . A spellbinding story" Publishers Weekly on Past Crimes

"Wow" Lee Child on Hide Away

"Absolutely addictive" Lisa Gardner on Hide Away

"You'll burn through the pages" David Baldacci on Hide Away

Welcome to Earth+. The year is 2037, and nearly all human interactions have migrated to the virtual world. Now, true crime fans don't just listen to podcasts or watch documentaries - they participate in hyper-realistic simulations and hunt for clues to solve the most famous and gruesome crimes in history. Criminal entertainment is a multibillion-dollar industry, and at the forefront is Past Crimes: known by its millions of fans as the Disneyland of Death.

Cassie West licenses crimes for V.I.C.E, spending long hours convincing grieving families to allow her to sell their tragedies to the highest bidder. Life is hard, and the cost of living high, but she and her husband Harris have never been happier. After years of trying, Cassie is finally pregnant.

But leaving work late one evening, Cassie starts to worry. Harris isn't responding to texts or calls. Even worse, dozens of emergency drones seem to be heading in the same direction as she is: straight to their home.

What she finds there changes everything. Soon, Cassie finds herself in a fight for survival, becoming a target in both the real and virtual worlds. But it's not just her own life at stake. If Cassie can't uncover the truth of what happened to her husband, thousands more may die . . .

Action-packed, satirical and beyond compelling, Past Crimes examines our obsession with true crime and how the pain of others has become a multi-billion-dollar industry, while also exploring the sinister possibilities of the virtual world.

When death becomes entertainment, every life has a price. And Cassie West is about to find out how much hers is worth . . . Ready Player One meets Black Mirror in this stunning speculative thriller...

Advance Praise

Lee Child on Hide Away

“Absolutely addictive”
Lisa Gardner on Hide Away

“You’ll burn through the pages”
David Baldacci on Hide Away

“Outstanding . . . a convincing, moving performance”
Publishers Weekly Starred Review of A Stranger at the Door

“Full-bodied characters in a compelling plot”
Booklist Starred Review of A Stranger at the Door

Lee Child on Hide Away

“Absolutely addictive”
Lisa Gardner on Hide Away

“You’ll burn through the pages”
David Baldacci on Hide Away

“Outstanding . . . a convincing, moving performance”

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ISBN 9781448312122
PRICE $29.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 52 members

Featured Reviews

This book can be read on two levels.

1) on a fictional level, this book takes you on a journey through murder, fire, con men, video games, and the future of true crime. I found myself shocked multiple times throughout as the story unraveled and I found out what was hiding behind every door (or tunnel). It’s dystopian, it’s haunting, it’s culty, it’s just SO GOOD. I read it in less than 24 hours, staying up late and sneaking in a few pages here and there on my bathroom breaks at work!!

2) on a social commentary level, this book is truly about a reckoning for true crime “fans.” As technology continues to advance, will podcasts, books, and tv shows be enough? Why study them in 2D when you could live them in 3D? True crime is largely no longer about honoring victims and studying psychopaths so we have more knowledge of the future, it’s about reverence for serial killers and trampling over victims and their families. Now I know (I KNOW) there are people saying “oh that’s not me, never me!” Then I invite you to really examine your viewing and listening habits. Is the content you’re consuming informing or is it really just vouyerism and entertainment at the cost of people’s lives? After reading this book, I know I’m going to be more critical of what I consume related to true crime.

Thank you to Pinter for manifesting such an addicting and deeply disturbing world for me to dive into. I will be coming back to this book again and again.

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"Past Crimes" is a book I have a mixed feeling about: on one hand, it presents a fascinating and timely concept of virtual reality, which, as of 2023, is increasingly integrated into our lives, and in the novel's plot, it goes beyond current paradigms. The world-building is intriguing, but on the other hand, the execution could have been better, and Cassie, the protagonist, should have been more endearing - I simply didn't like Cassie. Perhaps it's a deliberate move by the author, portraying a vision of us becoming increasingly dehumanized, leaning more towards machinery and potential profit?

The plot itself is captivating with several twists, but it's not on the level of Brent Weeks, so there aren't any jaw-dropping moments. The depicted world where virtual reality becomes the real world and the physical realm is merely a shell isn't a novel idea, but I appreciate the author's take on this matter.

It's a techno-thriller with interesting motifs that could have been executed better.

I'd like to thank Severn House and NetGalley for providing me with this ARC.

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Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC of Past Crimes.

I usually don't read sci-fi because the sci-fi mumbo jumbo jargon goes over my head but I did like the premise very much.

This is a timely narrative that focuses on AI, virtual reality and the insatiable lust for true crime from aficionados and stans..

When Cassie West's husband is accused of being the mastermind of a horrific mass murder, her life is shattered and forced to live the life of a recluse.

A decade later, the shocking death of a family man seems to offer hope and the opportunity for Cassie to prove her husband's innocence once and for all. Cassie and a teenage survivor team up to discover the secret behind a mass conspiracy.

The world building is good, there's plenty of sci-fi mumbo jumbo about virtual reality, and how humanity has adapted to living in a virtual reality world and the medical and psychological ramifications of that transition.

Cassie is a deeply unlikeable character; she's a doormat, passive and dull, unsympathetic, and it seems the only thing she cares about is having a baby.

I don't mind unlikable characters, you should meet the relatives on my dad's side of the family, but even some unlikable characters have an interesting quality that makes them stand out.

What really made me dislike Cassie was when the teenager (forgot her name!) is having a nightmare and Cassie tells herself it's not her job to comfort her because she's not a parent. don't have to be a parent to comfort someone who is in distress, you just have to be human.

Cassie isn't particularly street smart or even just smart; it seems to take her a while for things to click into place. It's more like people around her make faster connections and then she finally gets it.

Since it's a science-y narrative, there's a lot of exposition, explaining, plenty of telling, not showing, so the suspense is kind of lacking even when Cassie is touring Murderland.

I'm grateful for the opportunity read this before publication.

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Fast paced and entertaining - this is a solid dystopian beach read. A recommended purchase for collections where SF and dystopian is popular.

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Oh Wow! This book took me by surprise! I have been a fan of Jason's for a long time, since I read the first Parker book, so got this book expecting a good mystery. Ummm, not quite. This book was not at all what I was expecting, taking place years in the future and very much a changed world. I almost said "forget it", but thought I'd give it a chance. After all it was Jason Pinter. Anyway, very soon it grabbed me and didn't let go until I finished it! Very different, but very exciting, thrilling even, and never slowed down. Get this book! You won't be disappointed. Highly recommended. Great characters, very unusual and interesting story.

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Past Crimes was like a much darker Ready Player One or William Gibson novel. In the year 2037 most of society works, plays and lives in the vast virtual reality world. And the most popular thing about it is true crime - not documentaries, but virtual simulations of famous crimes and the ability to see the sites, victims and criminals for yourself. Cassie West works for a company that licenses crimes, paying for permission of victims' families and friends to recreate their likenesses an experiences for the sims. Until the day she finds herself unwittingly on the other side, as her husband is accused of masterminding the Blight, one of the greatest and most horrific crimes in history. Ten years later, after doing her best to hide from the public eye, she once again finds herself in the spot light as signs of an even greater Blight may be on hand.
This was one of the darkest, bleakest, Dystopian stories I've ever read. Not only does it project a depressing not-so-far-off future for Earth, but it shows how the worst aspects of society today could lead to such an ominous future. The story is full of on-the-nose social commentary, not just about becoming lost in modern technology and AI, but also the portentous look of how things such as extremist ideology, fascist government, corporate greed and conspiracy theory could lead to such a Dystopia. 4.5/5*

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Six-fi has never been my thing, until Past Crimes!

Even if you are not Sci-fi fan I would highly recommend this book. The book focuses on AI and virtual reality.

Earth- is the real world
Earth+ is where most people go for work, school or to enjoy their free time in Past Crimes.

Follow Cassie West, married to Harris and expecting their first child, as her life changes in the blink of an eye and she spends the next 10 years trying to figure out what happened.

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Past Crimes is a true crime lover’s wet dream coupled with a metaverse house of horrors. Jason Pinter has designed a dystopian world of the not-too-distant future that is unthinkable yet plausible, and makes today’s debates about technological ethics, privacy, and freedom seem cute and rudimentary by comparison.

It’s 2037 and most human interaction is now on Earth+, a virtual world filled with various experiences from going to school, to creating and experiencing art, to being able to witness and participate in simulations of the biggest crimes in history. Past Crimes is the leader in criminal entertainment and a multibillion-dollar business that even has a physical theme park dubbed the Disneyland of Death. And the most famous crime of them all has just happened – The Blight. A mass murder-suicide that resulted in the immolation and death of thousands. To Cassie West, The Blight is much more than a famous crime. Her departed husband has been convicted of being the mastermind, something that Cassie cannot reconcile with the man she knew and loved. Now a decade later, she is still trying to clear his name when new information comes to light that changes everything. But there are powerful forces at play that will do anything to silence Cassie and those she enlists for help….and they’ll be damned if they let the wife of the most notorious criminal in recent memory disrupt their plans to release the greatest crime simulation ever created.

There is plenty of propulsive action, blindsiding twists and innovative technology to enthrall any thriller or sci-fi fan for hours. However, that’s not what makes Past Crimes so compelling. It’s the combination of multiple topics – the metaverse, AI technology, true crime obsession, loss of civil liberties and due process, corporate greed, the destruction of the middle class, and more – that come together into one fascinating story of a potential future that should scare everyone for so many reasons. This novel makes you explore your own ethics and values, look at the type of the content you consume and its impact on society, question what you should be willing/not willing to trade off in the name of technological convenience, and think differently about what choices we need to make and policies we need to enact today to avoid creating a future that is lived in a corporate controlled and curated virtual environment versus a personal connection-driven humanity in the physical world.

One thing’s for sure. After reading Past Crimes, you won’t think about technology the same or take the future for granted ever again.

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Thanks to Netgalley, Severn House and Jason Pinter for the chance to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! What a wild ride. I loved Past Crimes, it was a fast paced, action packed, mysterious and down right creepy, futuristic sci-fi thriller.
The whole scenario felt all too possible, with all the progress we've made in modern technologies recently, which made it all the more chilling.

Sci-fi isn't normally my go to genre, but I wanted to read this one, as the synopsis really intrigued me. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. I really liked the main characters Cassie and Aly, they were interesting and complex. The storyline was compelling and addictive, it drew me straight in and didn't let go, I couldn't put it down and read it in a day.
The writing was excellent. I'm usually pretty good at guessing twists, but this kept me guessing, the twists were insane.

I highly recommend and will definitely be on the lookout for more books from this author.

5 well deserved stars from me. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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4.5 stars
This book blew my mind. I am DYING for a film adaptation, holy cow. It's "Ready Player One" meets "Black Mirror" and the commodification of true crime, and I could not get enough. Definitely one of my favorite book plots in recent memory.

The year is 2037, and while Earth (aka Earth-) is deteriorating, Earth+, its virtual reality counterpart, is thriving. The biggest business? True crime simulations created by Past Crimes, aka the Disneyland of Death. Forget podcasts and documentaries, people are spending 18+ hours a day immersed in hyper-realistic simulations that recreate the most horrific crimes throughout history--especially those that are unsolved. They can simply observe or participate and search for clues.

Cassie West's job is licensing crimes, aka persuading grieving family members to sell the story and likeness of their dead loved ones. Until one day she finds herself on the other side of things, her life forever altered by one of the biggest and most mysterious crimes in history. Will looking for clues in the simulation solve the mystery, or just lead to more?

This book does such a good job showing the disgusting but seductive nature of true crime, and even as I knew I should be repulsed, I couldn't help but think how fun some of the simulations sounded, even with the side effects. The detail and specificity of this world were fascinating, it felt so full and fleshed out, down to the nuances of laws in Earth- vs Earth+. This is a very well-timed book, too, with all the discourse on AI lately.

If you love true crime, satire, sci-fi, dystopian stories, and high-stakes adventure, add this to your TBR right away. Even if you've never been into all of those things, I encourage you to give it a shot. It's very accessible and thought-provoking, and just a lot of (dark) fun. I predicted a couple of the twists, but some of the big ones had me gasping out loud and reading late into the night. I cannot wait to reread and discuss this one! Thank you to NetGalley, the publishers, & the author for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

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4.5 stars: This is a futuristic, dystopian novel which begins in 2037. Most people are spending the bulk of their time in Earth+, the virtual world, rather than in Earth-, which is the physical real world. True crime is a huge part of the entertainment business, much like today. But unlike today, the industry has moved into a 3-dimensional presentation of past crimes, where people can enter into the crime scene before, during and after it happens.

Cassie West is one of the many people that researches crimes and contacts the families to get a contract to license the victim's story. There is so much detail in how this works that I was hooked right away. Cassie and her husband Harris are expecting a baby, but barely making ends meet due to the very high cost of living as well as fertility treatments. At one point she says that $15,000 would not cover a month's rent for their 1 bedroom house!!! Let's hope this is not a glimpse of our future! Cassie calls her husband on her way home from work, and when she finally reaches him, he shares some horrifying news with her.

Fast forward 10 years. Cassie has spent the last 10 years hiding from the public, as most consider her an accomplice to the world's worst crime/event. Technology is even more advanced, and the virtual world is even more hypnotic. Cassie sets out to stop another disaster which would also clear her name, and her husband's name. She enters the fascinating world of how these simulations are created, who really benefits from them, while trying to be Abel to tell the real world from the virtual one.

There is a twist at the end that surprised me, even while I figured out a few of the secrets along the way. This story was very well written, and captivating right from the start. You don't get as much character development throughout the book as I would have liked, but everything else was so good that I gave it 4.5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, the publishers, & the author for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

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Past Crimes was a chilling look at the possible future of the world. It's like a mix between Ready Player One and Fantasticland, It's all too believable that society would jump on the opportunity to relive famous crimes, whether as a participant or as an observer. After the initial introduction of characters, the story was fast-paced and thrilling, and it took several turns I hadn't expected!

Thank you to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Past Crimes gives us a techno-thriller, a sci-fi, and a cold case mystery, played out in a dystopian near-future where true crime is the biggest commodity on the planet. It's basically bigger than Disney, and there's even a true crime theme park to enjoy! There is other social commentary sprinkled here and there in the story, but mostly this discusses how the true crime industry can be predatory, leaving the victims of crime dealing with an aftermath they didn't fully comprehend. The workers in the true crime industry, those on the bottom rungs who keep the gears going, are depicted as basically being like gulls, fighting over scraps that are cast into the social sphere. It's an interesting setup, and the world building in this story is strong.

After a strong hook at the beginning, the story started to build in intensity and soon the protagonist was deep in a true crime cold case of her own. I love true crime and cold cases, so I was happy to be taken on that journey. The pace felt almost perfect and the characters were engaging. I also enjoyed the tech being described in the world, which solidified the future setting. Then it almost felt like the story shifted in act two, which popped the balloon of fast-pace and the story went into a bit of free fall. While there were still interesting things occurring, it felt more of a slog to get through each chapter. It does pick up again towards the end, but that middle section is a struggle.

But overall, the author created a mystery with some good twists and surprises, and created a dystopian near-future that felt very well described and immersive. Despite the story telling us the true crime industry is quite evil in the future, I still would want to visit that theme park!

Thank you to the author, the publisher, and Netgalley, for providing a free copy of this book for an honest review. All comments are my own.

Link for video review to be shared soon.

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Taking how we absorb true crime into the future and the ways it can be monetized and the affects it can have, this was a new idea and a thrilling mystery. I couldn’t put this book down and I really hope to read more in this sub genre from this author.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the dystopian setting and heart wrenching stories of the characters had me hooked from the start. I love the cleverly referenced dominance of the internet as well as the incorporation of the fascination of public interest in true crime which was brought together to create a story full of suspense, torment and mystery.

I couldn’t put this down and finished it in record time, I am hoping a sequel is in the works because I was left wanting more and my curiosity is peaked after the ending.

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A multilayered mix of techno thriller and speculative fiction. i enjoyed the mix and found it thought provoking.
The author did a good job in developing the world building and the solid mystery
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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Thank you to NetGalley and Severn House for providing this book, with my honest review below.

Past Crimes by Jason Pinter was a great book, exploring AI and a future that felt very plausible. After Cassie is struck by tragedy her life turns upside down, until ten years later, when she begins to understand what happened to her may be related to a larger conspiracy. This book dives into a lot of interesting topics, and I’d recommend it for sci fi and thriller readers as a strong addition to those genres.

Thank you again for the ARC, Severn House. It is much appreciated and I enjoyed the read and the opportunity to share my feedback.

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WOW!!! I LOVED this book! What an original idea.

I won’t restate the synopsis, but this book is great for fans of “Black Mirror!” Set in the future, “Past Crimes,” explores the dark side of mankind in a very compelling way. As a true crime junkie myself, it made me look at the genre in a different way.

I loved the main character, Cassandra West. She grows throughout the book, and is a powerful female lead.

I’ve never read a book like this one, and was completely captivated from page one. In fact, I never wanted it to end and would love a sequel. This book should definitely become a movie!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for this 5 star read!

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I really hope life in 2037 isn't like this. Pinter has written a creative and satiric look at our obsession with true crime and AI, among other things. It's an intriguing set up, Cassie is a good character, and I was exhausted halfway through trying to keep up. That said it's a good read especially for those who enjoy dystopian fiction and dislike true crime,

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This story had an unsettling feel to it, I think because the future it presented felt dystopian but believable. There's a lot of action, and it was a bit of an adrenaline rush as a "rush against the clock" scenario plays out. There are some twists along the way, some that I saw coming for a while and some that I didn't expect at all. I liked the main character, Cassie, and that she was a representative of a fairly "normal" person in this future world until she becomes a victim herself. Overall, I found this to be an interesting book to read, and it kept my interest.

Thank you to Severn House and NetGalley for the advance review copy of Past Crimes. The opinions in my review are solely my own.

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As someone who really enjoys listening to True Crime podcasts and reading Sci-Fi, I was excited to read Past Crimes. Set in 2037, life is now played out in the virtual space of Earth+ where a ‘Disneyland of Death’ has been developed, giving True Crime fans the chance to virtually experience crimes, look for clues and try and solve mysteries first-hand.

This standalone sci-fi book may be relatively short, at under 300 pages but it’s perfectly paced, and I was gripped throughout. We follow Cassie on her mission to clear her husbands name after he was implicated in a mass arson attack years earlier. Cassie is a complex character and I felt empathy for her throughout as she tried to adjust to her new life.

I did feel that it was an odd choice to decide to set the book only 13 years in the future. The idea that an entire virtual world, new terminology and the wasting away of the real-life world would have happened in that time seems a bit of a stretch of the imagination and the whole thing relies on some serious suspension of disbelief. There are references to real people and actual cases which meant that it jarred slightly – if it were set 50 years in the future, I think it would have been a lot more believable.

The world building is great though and I did really enjoy learning about the backstory - the idea that Earth+ is used for schooling and work but still harms the users bodies from overuse was interesting. Some explanations did feel a little like a convenient ‘info-dump’ though and some parts are quite repetitive in places.
The plot has some great twists and turns and the plot is left a little open for a possible sequel but also ties up all the main strands nicely. I found it hard to put down and read it in just a few sittings.

Overall Past Crimes is an engaging and interesting Sci-Fi that’s paced well and hard to put down. Thank you to NetGalley & Severn House for the chance to read the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I have read a few books where some sort of online game or world becomes better then the real life world. I enjoy this! Everyone have taken their on twist on it and this one does a great job.

Taking place 20-30 years from now the world has become a much harder place to live. A digital world takes over jobs and life.
And people are obsessed with crime stories.. and with this online world you can live in the crimes!

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This is the fourth book I have read by this Author and they always surprise with just how talented they are. This dystopian thriller is their best yet, with stark parallels to today's soceity and events and a reimagining of how they will manifest in the future but a future close enough to send a real shiver down my spine

Pinter builds a totally immersive world and the characters are placed elegantly with a grapplig hook that drags you in and keeps you there until you have finished all of your dinner, veg too. I jest, but it was needed after the emotional rollercoaster that Past Crimes took me on

There are enough descriptions of the story, what I can say is that I was exhausted after reading this and in a good way. I was gripped and utterly immersed into the screaming pace and I just could not put it down

Bravo Mr Pinter, Bravo

This absolutely outstanding book was kindly given by Netgalley and it is a pleasure to leave this voluntary review

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An original storyline that makes you wonder.....what if. In 2000, there was a video game, Sims, that allowed you to build your own characters and infrastucture and interact as if they were real. Jason Pinter has given this a HUGE twist and moved it well into the video game future. Past Crimes is a reality video game that allows players to move through a simulation of a true crime that has been built online. Instead of watching the simulation on television or computer, you are in the simulation. Pinter builds a little too realistic description of how this could be accomplished. The characters both in and out of the simulation are three dimensional and easy to believe. With a well plotted "crime" the story moves quickly into thriller territory while readers stay up way too late to see if the characters will escape. I've read many of Pinter's back library but PAST CRIMES is my favorite so far. It's going to be interesting to see where he goes from here.

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The mention of Ready Player One in the blurb made me interested, that book is one of my all time favorite and there is a real strong vibe between these two, mostly due to the manner in which people live, communicate, interact, socialize, entertain, etc in the future. Both envision a world where people will wear some sort of googles that allow them to enter a virtual world. That is the only similarity between these two, this book delves into a future world where crimes, either historical or recent, are a huge interest, and revenue for Past Crimes, a company that obtains the rights to crimes and builds an interactive sim environment to allow people to participate or be a spectator to a crime. Cassie's husband has been gone now for a decade and during that time she has mostly stayed indoors, her husband was tried and convicted (even though deceased already) of being the leader of the Blight, a group of people that committed mas suicide at his urging. Past Crimes has created a sim about the crime due to be released soon and Cassie wants to enter it to see if she can find any clues to what caused him to act so out of character. Cassie succeeds in convincing Crispin Lake to allow her into the sim early and that's where things so sideways very quickly. This was a very fast paced and believable story and I would recommend even if you are not a sci-fi fan. Thanks to #Netgalley and #Severn House for the ARC.

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This book takes the fascination of true crime and boosts it into the future with virtual reality through simulations in a time when the reality of earth is so bleak that everyone essentially lives and works in a virtual world. If you want to live through the reality of Jonestown as it’s happening, Crispin Lake’s virtual world of Past Crimes will take you into the event live as a spectator or as a participant. You can even change the course of the events during the simulation. It’s both fascinating and horrifying to see the fans of these true crime events dressing up like famous serial killers and touring Murderland with their children.

This book follows Cassie, an employee of V.I.C.E. whose job entails convincing families traumatized by horrific events to sign on the dotted line to be paid money for their tragedy to be recreated in a simulation that the entire world can exploit for a subscription fee. At least until her family gets caught up in their own tragedy and not only exploited but blamed for a mass casualty event that encompasses scores of families subsequently known as The Blight.

Cassie and other interested parties travel across the country to find clues, witnesses and possibly answers by entering the new simulation for the Blight. But as the tenth anniversary of the event approaches, the evidence she uncovers may lead to another tragic event that may be impossible for her to stop.

I was on the edge of my seat throughout this story. At times, I worried that the answers would be predictable, but I was pleasantly surprised by the exciting culmination of the events. Recommended to both true crime and dystopian enthusiasts.

Thank you to Netgalley and Severn House for a copy provided for an honest review.

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It's 2037 & Earth has been split into two: Earth+ the physical world which is neglected & decaying, & Earth- the digital online world which has taken over. Everything is virtual: education, employment, even justice. True crime is big business & Cassie West works for V.I.C.E, a company which takes crime cases & turns them into 3D interactive simulations, & it's Cassie's job to get the families of the missing & murdered to sign up. It's not an easy job but she needs the money as Cassie & husband, Harris, are finally expecting their first child. As she heads home, she tries to call Harris but he isn't responding & Cassie's foreboding is sharpened when lots of emergency drones start heading in the direction she is travelling. As she nears home she sees her house is on fire & Harris is still inside!

Ten years later, Cassie is 'persona non grata' due to her husband's death. Not only did Harris die but he took dozens of people with him as he was the leader of a 'church' of Burners who, on the same day that Harris died, all set fire to their homes & killed themselves & sometimes their families. No-one will believe that Cassie didn't know, but when the father of a young girl called Aly shoots his wife & himself after saying he is a Burner & a second wave is coming, Cassie realises that not only could she save lives but that this could be evidence that Harris was not the leader after all. When she notices an error in the advert for the simulation of Harris's death (called The Blight & due to be released in days) which is being produced by the gold standard of true crime, Past Crimes, Cassie decides to appeal to their founder, Crispin Lake, because if there is one error then there might be more or even evidence which could help prove Harris's innocence - can she persuade Lake to let her into the game before launch day?

First of all, I really liked the premise of this book. It takes a swipe at the popularity of true crime & moves it to the next level. Whilst on a flight, Cassie actually goes through a simulation of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln & plays his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. In the technology you can play as a spectator & watch history unfold or it allows you to be a participant & change history within the simulation. There's also a theme park nicknamed 'Disneyland of Death' with rides such as 'Cannibal Canyon' & 'Wuornos Wave Machine'. There's lots of little remarks in the conversations about how being terminally online is bad for us & that most people don't care how much privacy they lose as long as they are being entertained (bread & circuses for real). For all that, I have the sneaking suspicion that a lot of people would probably jump at the chance to try a Past Crimes simulation.

The world-building & plot were well thought out & although there are several occasions of (necessary) 'info dumping', I didn't find that it detracted from the main story-line. The pace was fast throughout & although it did kind of come close to jumping the shark at the end, it was a fitting end in many ways. As a main character Cassie goes on a bit of journey, she starts off as quite insular & wary which is understandable after ten years of being reviled & viewed with suspicion & it takes a while before she can warm to & trust others. Overall it was a really entertaining & gripping read.

TWs: pregnancy, miscarriage, death of spouse.

My thanks to NetGalley & publisher, Severn House, for the opportunity to read an ARC.

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This dystopian thriller follows the story of Cassie West, whose late husband is infamously known for inciting a mass suicide in a world whose lines have blurred between reality and virtual reality. Cassie swears by her husband’s innocence, but no one believes her, and she sets out to clear her husband’s name. Pinter’s tale explores the horror of technology used for evil when it’s taken to an extreme. Readers will sense the fear of what could be coming in the near future.

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