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Literature / Traces

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Traces is a series of seven Science Fiction crime novels by Malcolm Rose. They center around sixteen-year-old Forensic Investigator Luke Harding and his partner in law, the Mobile Aid to Law and Crime (or Malc for short), as they solve crimes in an alternate England where blacks are the majority race and the southern parts of the country are derelict slums.

The series starts with Luke passing his FI examination, only to quickly be thrust into his first case when a series of murders occur in the school that all seem to point to him being the perpetrator. After solving the case, he's stationed in London due to the abundance of crimes in the South, which puts pressure on his already forbidden relationship with Love Interest Jade Vernon.

Books in the series:

  • Framed!
  • Lost Bullet
  • Roll Call
  • Double Check
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  • Final Lap
  • Blood Brother
  • Murder Club

The final book in the series, Murder Club, was released as an e-book in 2013.

Traces provides examples of:

  • Androids and Detectives: Technology in the Traces universe is such that each Forensic Investigator is paired with a robot companion that assists them in investigating and analyzing clues. Luke's robot companion is known as Malc, who is always straight-laced in contrast to Luke's more genial behavior.
  • Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: Pairings work this way, with the government pairing people up on the basis of how compatible their careers are. It becomes a source of conflict in many of the books, most notably between Luke and Jade, a detective and a musician who weren't paired up by the system but love each other regardless.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: Luke does this to force a confession out of Ed in Framed!.
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  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Luke was this in his school days, acing his classes despite putting little actual work into them. Mildly deconstructed in that some students resent him for it.
  • Buried Alive: In Final Lap, the culprit knocks out Luke and then ties him up at the bottom of a hole at the construction site. Had Jade not intervened, then Luke would've gotten buried in wet concrete.
  • Chekhov's News: The tsunami in Roll Call is made mention of sparingly throughout the novel, until the climax where it arrives and Luke has to find a way to survive it.
  • Detective Mole: All the evidence in Framed! points to the case's investigator, Luke, being the culprit. Subverted in that he's innocent and proving it is the impetus of the novel.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Luke made a fool of Ed Hoffman, by tampering with his javelin, so his reaction was, naturally, to kill three people, or pawns as he called them, in an attempt to destroy Luke's life.
  • Endangered Species: Cats and dogs. A cat smuggling operation was even central though a Red Herring to the plot of Framed!
  • Foil: Luke and Malc for one another. Malc is an emotionless robot, which allows the more personable Luke to bounce off him in humorous ways.
  • Foreshadowing: Ian's line to Luke about the foundations in Final Lap. Sets up the climax where Ian kidnaps Luke and tries to bury him alive in wet concrete.
    Ian: I don't want to be down there when they start to lay the foundations, do I? That wouldn't be much fun.
  • Frameup:
    • Luke is framed for triple murder in Framed!, and has to work to prove his innocence.
    • Played With in Double Check; Luke thinks Everton was framed for Rowan's murder, but it turns out that he had been hit by lightning, which caused him to have a spastic fit in the already murdered Rowan's apartment, which is why nearly all evidence pointed to him.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The forensic robots in the series are called Malc, short for Mobile Aid to Law and Crime.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison:
    • In Framed!, Luke never says the third murder weapon is a glass cutter. Ed Hoffman, on the other hand, does seem to know. Make of that what you will.
    • In Roll Call, Q, when they are discovered, says that EW4 is a 'girl' when Luke had not said how old she was.
    • In Double Check, Camilla almost lets slip that she knew Lee MacArthur had died, yet there was supposed to be no contact between the two after he had given her a new identity.
  • I Will Find You: Luke goes missing near the end of Final Lap. The perspective then switches to his girlfriend Jade, who does everything in her power to track him down.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Happens to Everton in Double Check, who can't remember the murder he's being pinned for. It's revealed that he's innocent and was struck by lighting at the crime scene, which can cause memory deficits in some cases.
  • Literal-Minded: Malc isn't programmed to understand sarcasm or turn-of-phrases, something that both humors and frustrates his human companion.
  • Locard's Theory: Seen several times. Most pertinent in Framed!, where a slight contact from Ed Hoffman when he was poisoning Ms. Kee left her with a flake of white paint, two blue denim fibres, six fine particles of magnesite, a smear of wax, and a deposit of sawdust on her right side.
  • Non-Action Guy: While Luke is physically fit and often chases down suspects, Malc is usually the one to combat violence.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: The main character is the human Luke Harding, while his parter in crime is Malc, a small robot that assists him in solving cases and protects him from violent criminals.
  • No One Gets Left Behind: Despite Malc and the Authorities telling him several times to leave London while he still can before the tsunami hits, Luke ignores them in order to first ensure Owen Goode and his band of scraps gets to safety, and then, after another warning to leave, ascends a crane in an incredibly risky (though ultimately successful) attempt to save EW4, who he didn't have time to carry to high ground conventionally.
  • Parental Abandonment: After children are sent to school they aren't supposed to see their parents again. Subverted in Blood Brother where Luke's parents appear, and also in ''Roll Call' where Earl Dimmock mentions visiting his.
  • Persecution Flip: While discrimination is not a major theme of the series, it's white people who are the discriminated-against minority in the Traces universe.
  • Reverse Whodunnit: Framed!, Roll Call and Final Lap all have very small clues that should help to make the discovery of who the murderer is possible before Luke makes it.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Luke and Jade. Luke is an intelligent detective while Jade, his girlfriend, is an upbeat musician.
  • Taking the Bullet: Malc does this three times for Luke; taking a knife in Framed!, a bullet in Lost Bullet and a tree branch in Final Lap. Justified in that Luke's safety is Malc's second priority after upholding the law.
  • Taking You with Me: When Luke confronts Ed Hoffman in Framed!, he is told that since he had Ed for triple murder anyway, killing Luke as well wouldn't change anything.
  • Teen Genius: Luke is the youngest person to become a Forensic Investigator. Naturally people point out how he's a bit young to be an investigator.
  • The Stoic: Malc doesn't feel emotions at all, due to being a robot, which is used to contrast Luke's more humane approach to solving crimes.
  • Token White: Whites are the minority in the Traces universe, so coming across a white person is rarer than it would be in real life. As a result, Owen Goode is the only recurring white character.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Pomegranates for Luke. Finding a hotel that serves them is a running theme after Framed!.
  • Writing Indentation Clue: Used by Luke in Double Check to work out Camilla Bunker's new identity.


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