How much did I love this novella? It combines two of my favourite things, police procedural detective stories (with plenty of heart) and film geek references. The relationship between Detective Huang and the police AI, Metta, is the core of this story, and it carried me through the tangles of the mystery after Metta is stolen and restored from a back up to help Huang crack the case of her own kidnapping.
Wit and flirtation is provided through near-constant reference to Mae West’s screen persona, with quotations from her films and a few other noir classics set up as a running joke between Huang and Metta, and a key point not only to their friendship but also to the mystery itself. I also very much liked the exploration of how Metta worked as an AI, and how her relationship with Huang compared to her relationships with various other members of the police force. The issue of which face she showed at what times, and what skills or extra abilities she brought to the police was dealt with at many levels, and from many different angles.
It’s so rare to find a combination of SF and crime that actually hits all the right buttons for both genres, but this novella has them in spades. It also has that ability I have previously only credited to Connie Willis stories, that it makes me want to run away and watch old black and white movies until the cows come home.