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Publisher: Carina Press (2013)
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Accidents happen on a space station space. But when a body’s head and hands go missing, that’s when top investigator, Kyle Tanner rushes in to solve the heinous crime before more of the crew lose their heads. More detective mystery than sci-fi, Timothy S. Johnston’s hero is the only one who can stop the villain before he or it destroys everything in The Furnace.

The year is 2401. Homicide investigator Kyle Tanner has seen his fair share of the galaxy’s obscenities. Most notably he’s responsible for the capture of its most infamous rogue, popularly dubbed the “Torcher,” in a manhunt that propelled him into the cultural consciousness, though he couldn’t care less. In fact, he’s never felt more alone in the universe after his oversight led to the death of a fellow investigator, and the closest thing to a friend he has ever had.

But it’s his former exploit that will forever mark his career, and ultimately what has him assigned to investigate SOLEX One, a space station collecting solar energy on the warmer side of Mercury. The case: Jimmy Chin, a crewman aboard SOLEX, killed outside the station when his vac-suit is mysteriously lacerated and decompression finishes the job. Not the grisliest of murders, but when the head and hands are removed from the body twelve hours later, the case falls within the realm of complication Tanner is known for untangling.

Now Tanner has fourteen remaining suspects aboard the station, any of whom could potentially be guilty of the crime. And though the rest of the crew widely consider Jimmy’s death an accident and the tampering of the body a prank, albeit an odd one, Tanner doesn’t share their sense of humor. He also knows something else: if there is indeed a murderer on the station, he’ll have to work fast to find them, for their surroundings are far too claustrophobic and perilous for the potential victims, including himself, to rest easy.

Sure enough, the bodies begin piling up and Tanner’s life is directly threatened. Were it the work of another maniac like /the Torcher, Tanner might be able to get his head around the situation. Only there’s a secret that makes this case different than anything he’s ever experienced, and with implications that reach far beyond an isolated space station. It soon becomes clear that any one of them would count themselves lucky to make it out alive.

With a premise that’s virtually Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None meets John Carpenter’s The Thing meets Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, there’s some cross-pollination that could appeal to enthusiasts of multiple genres. This is not a straight Sci-fi, and it isn’t a straight mystery.

The author does face a challenge of blending a meaningful and entertaining story. Though there is plenty of intrigue piled into the first half of the book, the unwinding during the second half does take on a different pace. Some readers may find the technical aspects of the plot that point to plausibility a bit over complicated, lessening the tension and strength of the work. However, for those who crave Sci-fi/Thriller/Romance with the dial turned up to violent, this is your perfect read.

Don’t lose your head – even if someone or something tries to take it! Timothy S. Johnston’s The Furnace will have you checking your spacesuit for lacerations and keep you looking over your shoulder for what goes bump in outer space.