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Red CellsDark Fuse is proving to be a great publisher of horror shorts and Red Cells by Jeffrey Thomas is no exception.

Jeremy Stake is a shape-shifting PI who is doing time so his client he impersonates doesn’t have to. Stake is in no ordinary penitentiary: this future world, populated by aliens and mutants, has a unique solution to overcrowding in jail. They created a new prison in a pocket universe, held together by physics I don’t profess to understand. And when inmates start to disappear, or rather explode in a mass of red goo, Stake finds himself at the centre of an investigation where his skills aren’t really wanted. He soon begins to realise that people – and robots – are not what they seem and that they may not be alone in this man-made universe.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of detective fiction, sci fi and horror. My main complain about many books in the sci fi and horror genres is that the gimmick – whether that be a monster, a ghost or an alien race – takes precedence over plot and characterisation. Thomas avoids this trap by writing a novella where I wanted to read on and find out who – or what – dunnit.

Thomas’s protagonist has appeared in two other novels by the author, neither of which I have read. An oversight I aim to put right ASAP.