Socko’s First Case by Tim Arnot

When I was a kid, I had a pretty unhealthy obsession with the game MindTrap. I never once managed to get anyone to play the actual game with me, but I would pour over the cards and spend hours trying to solve the logic and lateral thinking puzzles. While this would make me absolutely no fun to play lateral thinking games with as an adult, it also turned me into a sucker for locked room mysteries.

Socko’s First Case by Tim Arnot is, above all else, a locked room mystery. The king’s gold has gone missing, stolen out from under its guards’ noses. The room it was in, obviously, was locked with no way in or out. You know the drill with these things. The Kingsman Special Investigation unit is on it, with a seventeen-year-old doing most of the heavy lifting.

Yes, about that. Socko’s First Case isn’t a modern mystery. Nor a historical one, either. It’s a post-apocalyptic throw-back set in a Britain overcome with horrific inequality and rigid power structures. Which, for me, is where it gets really interesting. In the world Arnot has built, it  appears that most investigation techniques have survived (finger printing being a big one here), but the technology to actually execute a proper investigation is severely lacking. The absence of electricity and all that implies seems to be the biggest hurdle.

And that makes for some interesting solutions to solving crimes. There’s a murder, there’s missing gold, and there’s at least one liar. But how does one go about identifying a body without a camera, without a database, and with a large city population that isn’t interested in helping? It’s a CSI-worthy case without the ability to indefinitely-enhance security footage.

Tim Arnot’s Socko’s First Case is available for 99¢ on Amazon. It’s the only story about Socko so far, but I’ve been told to expect more.

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