The Apollo Murders (2021) – Chris Hadfield

Retired astronaut and national treasure Chris Hadfield delivers a fast-paced thriller with The Apollo Murders. It’s a look at an all too believable reality as the story follows the training, launch, and mission of Apollo 18.

It’s made all the more believable because Hadfield not only knows his subject matter, emotionally and technically, using an almost Tom Clancy flourish to detail his storytelling but because he has populated his novel with representations of actual people, technology, and events.

And while there’s no real surprise about who committed the murder that changes the crew of the Apollo 18 mission the Cold War elements and wealth of characters make for an absolutely captivating read.

Hadfield’s attention to detail, not to mention his working knowledge garnered by true life experience of space travel, lend to a solid reality-based tale. He draws the reader in and fills the theatre of the mind with fantastic and precise images as he brings his story to life.

Set in the early 1970s, the Cold War rages on, though the race for the moon has been won by the Americans. The Soviets have launched a new manned spy station that poses a threat to America’s national security. They also seem to have found something on the surface of the moon with one of their rovers.

Both of these things necessitate a retasking of Apollo 18’s mission. It’s made a full military mission with the science taking a bit of a backseat this time out. But things aren’t going to go smoothly for the crew of the capsule, Pursuit, and the lunar module christened Bulldog.

Hadfield has twists and turns aplenty, all of it couched in the reality of the procedures of flight control and moon missions. It allows the reader a glimpse into how things could have played out had something like this actually happened.

Combining fact-based realities with thrilling moments against an orbital and moon-based backdrop, Hadfield’s tale rockets (wink) along. Characters and situations are controlled and manipulated, all while those back at mission control attempt to discover not only the cause of an astronaut’s death before the mission began but also the strange things that seem to be taking place throughout the course of the mission itself.

The Apollo Murders is Hadfield’s first novel, and while a work of fiction it combines a number of elements from reality. But it is the balancing act of narrative, characters, little life moments, and facts that make this a unique and compulsive read, and also fires the reader’s imagination about what Hadfield may have in store for us next.

A perfect beach read, presented, and told brilliantly. More, please.

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