I am not a chef by any stretch of the imagination, but I understand the attraction of mixing different ingredients to arrive at something stirring yet unexpected. Here, Rob Hart’s novel “The Paradox Hotel” combines the genres of mystery and time travel to arrive at a unique reading experience.
What would it be like if it became possible to travel into the past? Rather than scientific and historical exploration, society instead manages to harness the technology for … tourism. The story’s namesake is a hotel located next to the Einstein Timeport that indulges the whims of trillionaires wanting to travel back in time, while agents attempt to keep them from altering or interfering with the past by poaching or, say, saving the Titanic.
January Cole is the wisecracking head of security who seems devoid of courtesy — or a filter. She is also Unstuck, a unique (and ultimately life-threatening) condition from past time travels, causing her to unexpectedly see scenes of what has yet to happen or relive past experiences. The secret that keeps her from simply leaving is that she is still able to see glimpses of her former girlfriend around the property, not to mention just discovering a dead body that only she can see.
Even without invisible murder victims, it is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at the Paradox. There’s a massive snowstorm, and excursions have been canceled. Rooms are overbooked, the lights are flickering and a summit to sell the property has been unexpectedly moved up a week. It makes for a lot of cranky rich people who are not used to being inconvenienced — and that’s before the dinosaurs get loose.
As she battles this series of crises with her personal drone, Ruby (think of it as a supercharged Alexa), January meets the four bidders for the property. Each has their own reason for wanting to win, but all seem unconcerned how their long-term plans could cause irreparable harm to the timeline.
In thwarting attempts made on the bidders’ lives, January and Ruby discover someone has been tampering with the security and video systems. Is she working with a saboteur, or could there really be a ghost in the machine?
The clock is ticking down — and for some reason, less regularly — for January to determine what has and what will be happening before her increasingly erratic behavior either gets her sidelined or fall into madness. After alienating almost everyone around her, can January now depend on others to help her thwart what may be a time-based catastrophe?
Beginning “The Paradox Hotel” is more akin to starting from the story’s middle. The author purposely leaves it to the reader to sort out the characters and understand many of the ongoing relationships without being overly complicated. While the delicious blend of time travel and mystery almost always works, the novel ultimately turns out to be something truly surprising — a tale of the importance of love, loyalty and family.
Ken Satterfield is the circulation assistant at the Missouri River Regional Library.