Using elements of noir and romance Cates successfully nests deeper philosophical and societal considerations into a tight, brilliant plot that expertly braids three separate narrative threads: the investigations of Detective Lesley Powell, the love life of one Donovan James, and the liaisons of Mrs. Emily Monroe. The result is a fast-paced novel that contains all the thrills of a police procedural—while scrutinizing those procedures—and titillates, while exploring the dangers of love. Timely in its considerations of the abuses of power inherent in the culture of corporations and law enforcement, M-theory is an engrossing, accessible, yet formally complex, study in human emotion, psychology, and motivation that will leave readers considering their own conceptions of reality.
Donovan James enjoys his routine. Wake up. Catch the El. Teach high school English. Run the track. Return home on the train. Repeat. In a turbulent Chicago, this routine keeps his mind from wandering. Well, from wandering into the less-immediate world anyway. You see, Donovan can’t seem to stop watching the people who frequent his morning commute, or from dissecting their lives based on these regular but limited encounters. He believes that he knows them well.
That is until one morning, he runs late, and by a series of minuscule events he runs into her, the lady in the blue coat, a passenger on his train car whom he has seldom paid attention. The moment is fleeting, but now everything has changed. The routine is disrupted. Lives are not what they seem. Soon Donovan will be caught up in the investigations of Detective Lesley Powell as well as a train full of other lives and their lies, careening toward something mysterious and sinister. Donovan knows where he got on this train, but where will he get off?
In M-theory, Tiffany Cates meticulously layers America’s societal, spiritual, and moral tensions in a plot that travels through the streets and elevated tracks of Chicago, creating a riveting thriller with an endearing love story at its beating heart. As inventive and intelligent as it is entertaining, M-theory marks Tiffany Cates as an important voice in American fiction.