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Literature / Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery

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It's not every day you solve your own murder.

Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery is a science-fiction novel by Jim Bernheimer.

Upon waking up in a new city on a different planet, homicide detective David Bagini discovers that he is in fact the forty-second clone of David Bagini. He's been created to solve a murder ... specifically the murder of his prime. Standing in the way is the clues point directly at the other Bagini clones and they already know all his tricks.

How do you solve your own murder when you are the only suspect?

  • The Ace: Dave Bagini is this in all his incarnation. All of the clones are created from people considered the best in their field.
  • Alien Sky: What helps clue Dave-42 in to the fact he's on a new world.
  • Always Someone Better: Every clone seems to consider Dave Prime to be this since he got to live the life they always wanted with the woman they loved. Subverted by The Reveal.
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  • Ambiguously Human: Averted. The only people who believe this are regular humans and they're portrayed as kidding themselves.
  • Antivillain: By the time we discover who killed the original Dave Bagini who isn't even the original anyway, the reader has long since come to the conclusion he had it coming.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The murder of Dave Bagini is solved but the system remains as corrupt as ever. Dave-42 decides to soldier on and try to achieve as much happiness as his situation allows, however.
  • City Noir: The space colony is full of Fantastic Racism, disgusting smells, corruption, lies, and economic disparity.
  • Cloning Blues: A major theme of the novel is studying the ethical and social implications of widespread cloning.
  • Crapsaccharine World: For Primes, you get a tithe from every one of your clones for the rest of your life and it's usually a large fortune. For clones? It's a full on Crapsack World.
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  • Cyberpunk: A pretty good example of the genre in the literal sense. Technology and society has fucked over the clones and made them little more than cogs in the machine.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The way the clones are treated is meant to invoke the ways minorities are treated.
  • Evil Twin: Dave expects the clone murderer to be defective in some way. In fact, he was driven to murder by being ripped off for years.
  • Fantastic Racism: Clones are second-class citizens both legally and socially while Primes are treated as the elite.
  • Fantastic Slur: Crotchdropper for birthed humans.
  • Flying Car: As part of the homages to Bladerunner.
  • Film Noir: The novel does its best to invoke this atmosphere in a science-fiction setting.
  • The Future Is Noir: Very much so. It's like the 1940s in space only with even worse racism.
  • Free-Love Future: A Downplayed Trope example. A lot of the clones have very causal attitudes to sex given they can't have children by design. Quite a few of them have multiple partners simultaneously (usually other clones) since why not? Dave-42, ironically enough, finds this vaguely depressing.
  • Greed: The motivation of virtually all Primes. They are the top in their field and can become fabulously wealthy by getting a tithe from all the clones made from them. It just requires them to sentence, essentially, themselves to debt slavery dozens if not hundreds of times over.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Nobody is good in this book and even the murderers have good reasons for their actions.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: A major psychological factor to how the cloning caste system works. Every clone knows they're the sort of guy who, in the position of their Prime, would sell their own genetic replications into wage-slavery. Averted with Dave-42 who has memories of a time when the original was adamantly against cloning.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: Dave-42 does his job because he's a cop but has deep reservations about anything he's doing. Ultimately, averted by the ending.
  • The Reveal: Dave Prime has been dead for years. The real victim is actually Dave-1 who took his place.
  • Rich Bitch: Dave-Prime's daughter. Subverted when you realize her anger is for understandable reasons. Her mother intends to replace her murdered father with one of the clones—and has done so before.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Averted. The clones are treated as these but are, by and large, identical to their Primes.
  • Shout-Out: Dave-42 is 42 as an homage to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Primes and regular humans have this sort of attitude to their clones, which is shown to be Fantastic Racism.
  • Zeerust: The future is a great deal like the 1940s save for all the advanced technology.


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