In The Mimicking of Known Successes, Malka Older creates a cozy murder mystery in humanity’s distant future on Jupiter. I found this novella to be a delightful, satisfying read. The action clicked along nicely, the world-building was intriguing, and Mossa and Pleiti were great characters.
Mossa, an Investigator, is summoned to the furthest reaches of the network of floating platforms humanity has created to settle Jupiter in order to investigate a disappearance. The victim is a university man, and Mossa’s initial cursory investigation can find no supporting evidence of a supposed suicide, nor why the man would come to such a distant platform in the first place. Seeking more insight into his politics and motivations, Mossa enlists the help of Pleiti, her ex-girlfriend. Pleiti is part of a team of Classical scholars who study ecosystems and environments as part of a larger movement to eventually rehabilitate and return to Earth. Together they explore university politics, Jupiter’s largest tourist attraction, and their re-kindling romantic tension with each other.
I found The Mimicking of Known Successes to be an excellent cozy mystery and perfectly novella-paced. It was balanced between intriguing glimpses of world-building and the rising action. I adored how it had traditional mystery elements – a man has vanished! People are acting mysterious! Inter-departmental friction! – and at the same time, a lot of great sci-fi details. I was in love with the rail system and the descriptions of little businesses and industries that came about on Jupiter. But nothing overwhelmed the length of the novella, which is, in my opinion, a problem a lot of novellas have. I would love to read half a dozen more novellas set on this same world, but I don’t necessarily wish this one had been longer. It felt perfectly self-contained.
Mossa and Pleiti were also great characters. Mossa is intensely focused and not great with her interpersonal skills, but I liked how she was aware of her faults, and made efforts to correct them, even if she didn’t always succeed. I loved that Pleiti understood her though, and that Mossa valued and sought out Pleiti’s contributions to the case, even though Pleiti is trained as a scholar not an investigator. The tension of their past feelings for each other and the slow re-kindling of their relationship was great. I felt like there was a lot of romantic tension here for a novella but that it was well established and grounded, which was excellent.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a quick but engaging read, The Mimicking of Known Successes is a great choice. Whether you’re a sci-fi fan who thinks you could use a little mystery or a mystery fan who thinks you could possibly branch into sci-fi, I think you could come into this book from either angle and be satisfied.