Time-Travel Murder Mystery, Rob Hart Excerpt

A crop of the cover of The Paradox Hotel. See the full cover below!Image: Ballantine…

A glowing blue symbol adorns the cover of The Paradox Hotel, an upcoming time-travel thriller by Rob Hart.

A crop of the cover of The Paradox Hotel. See the full cover below!
Image: Ballantine Books

The Paradox Hotel—the latest from Rob Hart (The Warehouse)—is described as “a locked-room murder mystery set at a hotel for time travelers,” a premise that couldn’t be more intriguing. Today , io9 can exclusively share the cover as well as an excerpt ahead of the book’s release early next year.

First, here’s a description to set the scene.

For someone with January Cole’s background, running security at a fancy hotel shouldn’t be much of a challenge.

Except the Paradox is no ordinary hotel. Here, the ultra-wealthy guests are costumed for a dozen different time periods, all anxiously waiting to catch their ‘flights’ to the past. And proximity to the timeport makes for an interesting stay. The clocks run backwards on occasion—and, rumor has it, ghosts stroll the halls.

Now, January’s job is about to get a whole lot harder. Because the US government is getting ready to privatize time-travel technology–and a handful of trillionaires have just arrived to put down their bids.

Meanwhile there’s a blizzard rolling in, and the timestream’s acting strange. Which means nobody’s leaving until further notice.

And there’s a murderer on the loose.

Or at least, that’s what January suspects. Except the corpse in question is one that somehow, only she can see. And the accidents stalking their prestigious guests…well, the only way a killer could engineer those is by operating invisibly and in plain sight, all at once. Which is surely impossible.

There’s a reason January can glimpse what others can’t. But her ability is also destroying her grip on reality—and forcing her to confront secrets of her own.

Because here at the paradox hotel, the past is waiting around every corner.

Here’s the full cover, followed by the excerpt.

Illustration for article titled A Murderer Stalks Time Travelers in This First Look at Rob Hart's Sci-Fi Thriller The Paradox Hotel

Image: Ballantine Books


QUANTUM ENTRAPMENT

Droplets of blood pat the blue carpet, turning from red to black as they soak into the fibers. The drops come slow at first, before turning to a trickle as the bones of my skull squeeze like a hand around my brain. My body yearns to release the tension in my shoulders, to let the pressure off my knees, to lay down and go to sleep.

Except it won’t be sleep.

It won’t really be death either. Something more in-between.

A permanent vacancy.

This moment has been chasing me for years. The third stage, when the strands of my perception unravel and my ability to grasp the concept of linear time is lost.

More pats on the carpet. But the blood from my nose has stopped flowing.

Heavier, from the other end of the hallway, getting closer.

Footsteps.

Maybe I can fight this. A handful of Retronim. A cherry lollipop. What if I scream? I open my mouth. Nothing comes out but blood.

The footsteps get closer.

This is the moment when my brain will short-circuit. That’s the third stage of being Unstuck. No one really knows why it happens. The prevailing theory is your mind finds itself in a quantum state and can’t handle the load. Others think you witness the moment of your death. I don’t give a shit about the “why” of it. I just know the result doesn’t look pleasant: a glassy-eyed coma that’ll last as long as my body holds out.

The pressure increases. More blood. Maybe I’ll bleed to death first. Small victories.

In a moment I’ll be gone. Probably reality too. The timestream is broken and I’m the only one who can fix it, but instead I’m dying on the floor. Sorry, universe.

I slip again, memories rattling around my brain like rocks in a tin can. Sitting in my bed, the smell of garlic and chili paste frying in the kitchen, wafting upstairs. Graduating the academy, walking across the gymnasium stage, new heels tearing at the skin of my feet while I scan the sea of folding chairs.

The first time I let Mena kiss me, the two of us alone on the balcony overlooking the lobby.

That taste of cherries, and everything I ever needed.

The footsteps stop.

I feel it, the displacement of air, the gravity of another person, standing there, watching me writhe on this dumb blue carpet. Nothing I can do now. It’s over. But I’m not going to die on my hands and knees.

With the last of my strength I push up . . .

Tap-tap-tap.

Doctor Tamworth is holding his pen an inch above the flat expanse of his desk, looking at me like I might bite him. Which, the day is young.

I take a second to situate myself. The fluorescent light is so white it’s almost blue, to match the sky-blue walls and dark blue linoleum tile. So much of this place blue, which is calming, or so I’ve been told. The room is otherwise bare, save a small tablet on the desk, a diploma on the wall from a university in his home country of Bangladesh, and a half-eaten deli sandwich in a cardboard clamshell container. I can smell the sting of the vinegar, the funk of the cheese. My stomach growls at it. Ruby is hovering in its usual spot over my shoulder, too close by half.

“When were you just now, January?” Tamworth asks.

“Right here doc,” I tell him, which is only mostly a lie, because the place I slipped to is gone.

Something about carpet? I reach for it, but it disappears between my fingers like smoke. Probably not important.


Excerpt from The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart, copyright © 2022 by Rob Hart. Used by permission of Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Rob Hart’s The Paradox Hotel hits shelves February 22, 2022; you can pre-order a copy here.


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