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The Cassie Tam Files #1

by Matt Doyle

New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …

For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove to the deceased’s sister Lori that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. But that’s just the start of her problems.

When the case forces Cassie to make contact with her drug dealing ex-girlfriend, Charlie Goldman, she’s left with a whole lot of long buried personal issues to deal with. Then there’s her client. Lori Redwood is a Tech Shifter, someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with Charlie. Oh, and then there’s the small matter of the police wanting her to back off the case.

Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.

Rainbow Award Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention: Rainbow Awards 2017 - Lesbian Sci-Fi Category


Matt Doyle © 2017
All Rights Reserved


I always did like Venetian blinds. There’s something quaint about them in a retro-tacky kinda way. Plus, they’re pretty useful for sneaking a peek out the front of the building if I feel the need. That’s something that you just can’t do with the solid, immovable metal slats that come as a standard in buildings these days. That said, a thick sheet of steel is gonna offer you a damn sight more security than thin, bendable vinyl, so I keep mine installed. Just in case.

Another round of knocking rattles the front door, louder this time than the one that woke me.


The clock says 23:47, and the unfamiliar low-end car out front screams “Don’t notice me, I’m not worth your time,” which makes for the perfect combo to stir up the paranoia that the evening’s beer and horror-film session left behind. This is my own fault. My adverts are pretty descriptive in terms of telling what I do: lost pets, cheating partners, theft, protection, retrieval of people and items, other odds and sods that the city’s finest won’t touch…I’ve got ways to deal with it all. That’s right, I’m a real odd-job gal. The one thing that I don’t put in there are business hours. The way I see it, even the missing pet cases usually leave me wandering the streets at half-past reasonable, so what’s the point in asking people to call between certain hours?

More knocking, followed this time by the squeak of my letter box and a voice. “Hello? Cassandra Tam?”

It’s funny, really. For all the tech advances that the world has made, no one has been able to improve upon the simple open-and-shut letter box. I stumble my way through the dark and wave dismissively at the frosted glass. The light switch and the keypad for the door lock are conveniently placed right next to each other on the wall to the right of the door, so welcoming my apparent guest is a nice, easy affair. The lock clicks a moment after the lights flood the room, and I pull the door open.

“Cassie,” I say, turning and skulking my way back into the room. “Or Caz. Drop the Tam.”

I hear a sniff behind me, and the lady from the letter box asks, “Are you drunk?”

“If I pass out in the next five minutes, then yes,” I reply, turning the kettle on. I’d left it full, ready for the morning, but I guess this is close enough. “Take a seat at the table. Would you prefer tea or coffee? I’d offer beer, but since I reek of it, I guess I must’ve finished it.”

Footsteps creep unapologetically across the room, and a chair squeaks on the floor. Good. If you can’t deal with a snarky response to something, don’t say it all, and if you can deal with it, then as far as I’m concerned you don’t need to apologise.

“Coffee,” the lady says. “So, do you always see potential clients in your underwear, or is it just my lucky day?” Her voice has a slightly playful edge to it, but with a sarcastic kick to round it off.

The business portion of my apartment comprises entirely of a small open-plan room separating my kitchen from my living room. And by open plan, I mean an allotted space that encroaches on both territories but is conveniently large enough to house what I need. Or, in other words, a table, four chairs, and nothing else. Since filing went near entirely digital, filing cabinets have pretty much become obsolete, so the two that I found dumped outside the building when I bought the place currently live in my bedroom, and contain a mix of quick access work stuff and personal files I’d rather not have floating on the net. Most things, though, I store electronically, the same as everything else.

I rarely use the business table to eat, read, or any of that junk, so until this evening it’s been entirely empty for a good few weeks. The lady sitting there now is studying me, I can see, and probably wondering if this was a mistake. Whatever she may have expected, a Chinese-Canadian gal of average height in a cami top and a loose pair of sleep shorts most likely wasn’t it. For what it’s worth, though, I’m studying her just the same. She’s a lithe-looking thing, dressed in a casual pair of jeans and a plain black fitted top under a leather jacket. If the metal plugs running down her shaven head like a shiny, rubber-tipped Mohawk weren’t a giveaway for what she is, the light scarring punctuating the outer edges of her pale blue eyes certainly would be. She’s a Tech Shifter, and like most of her ilk, she looks like a punk rocker gone cyborg.

Reviews:Julia on Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words wrote:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Addict by Matt Doyle is going to be the first volume in a series about P.I. Cassie Tam and the cases she will find herself confronted with. I was especially curious to see how the author would handle the mixing between Sci-Fi and Fantasy elements. As it turns out, I was not going to be disappointed.

The story takes place in a not-too-distant-future-version of our world where technology has advanced to play an even more prominent role in people’s everyday lives. I very much appreciated the approach the author has taken to introduce the reader to his world: by show, not tell. For the most part we simply get to witness how the characters interact with the technology that surrounds them. Here and there the protagonist Cassie Tam, from whose perspective the story is told, will offer an explanation as to how and why certain technological as well societal developments have taken place. The world-building is pretty solid and one can see that the author put a lot of thought into creating a sensible connection between the past (in other words our current time period) and the present in which the novel takes place. It was interesting to discover the numerous and imaginative ways humans have attempted to improve their lifestyles through various gadgets and applications – some with rather questionable success.

I took a liking to Cassie from the beginning because of her direct, nonchalant attitude and demeanour. She is not some kind of newbie but has already a number of successful cases under her belt at this point and it shows. Therefore, she has confidence in her abilities and methods to get things done while on the other hand, there is the occasional blast from the past Cassie is forced to deal with.

Lori (or Ink as she is known in her animal form) is a Tech Shifter who can take on the shape of a panther. I found it very interesting to learn about this more recently emerged group of individuals that have formed their own kind of subculture at this point. The author did a good job in giving the reader some insight into their historical development, technological workings and position within current society. Lori herself is a woman of strong character and conviction who nonetheless needs a way from time to time to escape the harsh and corrupt reality that simmers beneath the surface of New Hopeland. She finds this kind of comfort by changing into her animal form and I appreciated how honestly she admits as much.

The two women play well off each other and the ever so playful, slightly cynical way the two interact with one another was fun to witness as well as the gradual development of their relationship amidst the dangerous events unfolding around them.

The crime story itself is well-paced and not lacking in suspenseful moments as well as peculiar and interesting individuals that Cassie has to deal with in one way or another. Sometimes I might have liked even a bit more details on characters, their looks and living conditions. All in all, this novel represented an enjoyable read and solid start for a new series and I am looking forward to reading about Cassie’s next case.

The cover art by Natasha Snow is not mind-blowing but it still looks nice and since this volume is intended to be the first in a series focusing on Cassie Tam, it seems appropriate to display her on the cover itself. Nevertheless, I would have very much enjoyed seeing a drawing of Ink or another Tech Shifter.

Jennifer Tooker on Jennly Reads wrote:

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Welcome to New Hopeland – American Wasteland

Addict, is a new series by author Matt Doyle and follows Cassie Tam, a Chinese-Canadian transplant from Vancouver to New Hopeland, somewhere in the USA of the future. Built as the technological center of the area, New Hopeland is a mixture of the latest technology, with a few throwback items. It’s nice, but like all metropolises, there are problems. Traditional drug addicts have been replaced by Virtual Junkies; addicts on an entirely different level and Goth rockers have transformed into Tech Shifters; people who use specially designed mechanical suits to transform into all manner of animal forms. In the midst of all of this, the residents can only trust law enforcement about 50% of the time. That’s where Cassie comes in. She’s a Private Investigator who makes her living taking on all sorts of cases that the local Police Department can’t or won’t touch. When she is awoken one evening by the grieving sister of a recent VJ Overdose victim, Cassie feels this is an open and shut case. Another story of an addict found needle in hand, all she needs to do it prove it to Lori. But, as her investigation progresses, information is uncovered that suggests that Lori may be right. The more Cassie digs, the more things don’t add up, but will the truth bring her client peace or destroy her?

Cassie can be described as one part Blade Runner and one part Sam Spade. The opening sequence was reminiscent of classic noir movies where the ‘damsel in distress’ makes a midnight call to the local gumshoe to beg for their help. Cassie’s world is a perfect blend of new and old technology, where the doors unlock and open with a wave of the hand, but there is still a mail slot and venetian blinds are preferred over the standard metal sliders. New Hopeland itself is a blend of the future and the distant past. My favorite part of the book had to be Bert, Caz’s faithful companion – part watchdog, part pussycat, all gargoyle.

Cassie herself is a bit of an enigma. Daughter of a cop and out of her native land, Caz is guarded and a bit sarcastic as a defense mechanism. You can’t really blame her with all she’s been through both in her professional and private lives. As the case progresses, Caz finds herself in the one place she most likely doesn’t want to be and the fallout from a casual visit with her ex results in a return of painful memories. As Cassie tries to move on, she realizes that maybe there is more to her client than meets the eye and I’m pretty sure that scares her more than any bad guy. For someone who has never read much of the Steampunk genre and even less LGBT, Addict drew me in with a strong lead, a great plot and a killer twist. I’m sure we have barely scratched the surface with Cassie and I’m curious to see what New Hopeland, Lori and future cases have in store for her.

EM Hamill on Goodreads wrote:

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Awesome Cyberpunk Atmosphere

I was intrigued as soon as I read the premise, and I'm really glad I picked it up. It was like reading a Sam Spade pulp book and watching Blade Runner at the same time. I loved the idea of Tech Shifting, and damn, do I want a Bert of my own. Caw!
Caz is a hard-shelled PI with a gooey center she hides from everybody, even herself. I love the fact that her flirtation with Lori is taking a realistic progression. Totally looking forward to more.

Donte McNeal on Donte's Playground wrote:

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

So, I've been a fan of Matt Doyle since I read his debut, Wick, and I haven't been disappointed yet. I'm glad to say that that trend continued with his latest outing, Addict.

I loved the Spark Form Chronicles for their engaging characters, the great action and the world that Doyle had created. Addict is more of the same. Well, there aren't any flashy battles, or tournaments, or living machines (and I use machine loosely because Carnival was so much more than that), but I digress. Addict boasts the staples of a Matt Doyle project: A detailed and sprawling world, coupled with complex characters, that learning more about is just as interesting as the immersive world they live in.

In the first book of The Cassie Tam Files, the future of the good ole US of A has brought about technological advances that don't seem too farfetched to me, if I'm being honest. AI capable of performing most, if not all functions a computer can for you, including searching the internet for whatever you need, or really anything digital that's available to the public. I haven't even mentioned the community of people known as Tech Shifters, who like to role-play as animals using technologically advanced exoskeletons (which sounds pretty fun), or the mechanical pets families have, that double as combat machines/security least for Cassie. I wish I could live in this world. Though, with all the advances that have been made, not everything has progressed as much. New Hopelandharbors a darkness: Shady businessmen, corrupt law enforcement and government officials, and assassins. Also, there's drug addicts, or Virtual Junkies, who use stimulants to get "high." You know, the usual.

Cassie, our smart-mouthed sleuth who makes a living digging into the lives of others in this city plagued by corruption, drugs and death. Am I the only one getting Jessica Jones vibes here? Oh, I am? Never mind then. When Caz is approached by a desperate young woman, looking to uncover the truth about her brother dying from an OD, she assumes all she has to do is prove the brother actually was a Virtual Junkie, and indeed overdosed on stimulants like the police said, and boom! Case closed. But things are never that neat in life, especially for the haunted Cassie Tam.

Cassie is taken for a ride that climbs up into possible corruption, loops through possible cover-ups and dips into possible conspiracies. And I must say, it was one hell of a ride! The case has our snarky PI having to confront her drug-dealing ex in order to get information to give her client, Lori, closure. Though, there's more to Lori than meets the eye, and I'm not just referring to the fact that she's one of the aforementioned Tech Shifters. Did I mention that I need to live in this world?

As the mystery unravels, secrets are exposed, past traumas revealed, and lives changed. I don't remember the last time I devoured a book in one sitting like I did this one, but Addict was one of the best reads of the year so far for me. I'll be impatiently...I mean eagerly waiting to see what comes next for Caz and co.

What's my final verdict? Must have!

About the Author

Matt Doyle is a speculative fiction author from the UK and identifies as pansexual and genderfluid. Matt has spent a great deal of time chasing dreams, a habit which has led to success in a great number of fields. To date, this has included spending ten years as a professional wrestler, completing a range of cosplay projects, and publishing multiple works of fiction.

These days, Matt can be found working on multiple novels and stories, blogging about pop culture, and plotting and planning far too many projects.