Book Review ~ Punishment by Scott J. Holliday

Book: Punishment (Detective Barnes #1)

Author: Scott J. Holliday

Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller, Mystery

Release: Thomas & Mercer | July 31, 2018

Do you want to know what it’s like to die, to kill, to really fear for your life? Then get hooked…

Detroit-based homicide detective John Barnes has seen it all—literally. Thanks to a technologically advanced machine, detectives have access to the memories of the living, the dying, and the recently dead. But extracting victims’ experiences firsthand and personally reliving everything up to the final, brutal moments of their lives—the sights, the sounds, the scents, the pain—is also the punishment reserved for the criminals themselves.

Barnes has had enough. Enough of the memories that aren’t his. Enough of the horror. Enough of the voices inside his head that were never meant to take root…until a masked serial killer known as Calavera strikes a little too close to home.

Now, with Calavera on the loose, Barnes is ready to reconnect, risking his life—and his sanity. Because in the mind of this serial killer, there is one secret even Barnes has yet to see…

PUNISHMENT by Scott J. Holliday was a book that I’ve been meaning to read for a while. While the cover was what got my attention in the first place, it was the plot that sealed the deal for me. A futuristic story where a machine is invented to extract people’s memories? Yes please. Kinda like what they did in Harry Potter-which I always found so cool, what with them extracting their memories to store and live through again later- but more sci-fi, and with the receiver actually living as the owner of the memory rather than witnessing it like they did in Harry Potter.

Interesting so far? There’s more.

When you receive a memory from another person, you also welcome a part of that person into your mind, which means they get to live with your consciousness for the rest of your life. Slipping into your speech, your mannerism, if you use the machine long enough. And you can imagine the implications of that. The invention of such a machine means black market, homemade memory machines, and a whole new market of ‘memories’, think about becoming your favorite star for a day. All for a price though, and I’m not just talking money. You run the risk of losing yourself if you become someone else for long enough. As scary as that thought is, it wasn’t even the focus of the story since this was a criminal case.

The machine, apart from serving illegally to the public, is actually an important tool in solving crime. The police use it to extract last moments from murder victims in order to shed light to the crimes. In comes Detective John Barnes, the officer who’s duty is to be hooked up to the machine to receive the last moments of the victims. Since he’ll be them, it means he’ll see, hear and feel everything they did before they die, so you can imagine what he’s going through every time he does this. It means dying every time he helps solve a crime. What a terrifying thought. Detective Barnes, of course, has his own issues to deal with and that makes him the guy with a death wish, so he’s almost perfect for the job.

While I found the mysterious case quite intriguing, and the idea of an unknown killer with a sugar skull mask, the ending left me a bit deflated for some reason. You still get your unexpected killer reveal and all, but starting from the reasoning to the meeting with the killer, it felt all very anticlimactic. I didn’t feel like there was much togetherness between the beginning and the end of the story. Let’s just say with how things started, I didn’t think it was going to end this way.

The battle of wills between Barnes and the murdered personalities he welcomed in his mind though, that was very interesting. The idea that, using the machine one too many times meaning losing yourself after a while if you’re not careful, now that’s a thought. I really liked that moral dilemma that the machine presented. Is it a tool for good, or just another drug? I felt like the story could’ve been more twisted.

If you like futuristic criminal stories, I think you’d like this one. And I’d love to know what you’d think when you read it. I coudn’t help but think this book could’ve been longer too, perhaps then more details could’ve been given that in turn would’ve helped me more to get in tune with what the author eventually did.

I’m adding three spoonfuls of this story into my hodgepodge. The story ended in such a way that I thought there’d be no more books, but I’ve already got the second book, so I can’t wait to read it and see what happens next.


Detective Barnes series:

  1. Punishment
  2. Machine City

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