The year is 1967. The Beatles have just released their revolutionary Sergeant Pepper album, the Summer of Love is in full swing, and change is in the air, no more so than in a nondescript little laboratory in north west England. Working day and night in near isolation, four young female scientists are pursuing a supremely ambitious project: they are building a time travel machine.
After months and months of tests and tweaks, Margaret, Lucille, Grace and Barbara finally achieve the impossible, and become the first people ever to travel through time. In a flurry of excitement, the pioneers invite the BBC to their laboratory for the big reveal, but partway through the pivotal interview, Barbara suffers a shocking on-camera breakdown, and plunges the whole project into jeopardy.
The year is 2017. It’s a bright summer’s day, and Ruby is visiting her Granny Bee when a mysterious origami rabbit turns up on Bee’s front doorstep. Unfolding it, Ruby and Bee discover the rabbit is fashioned from a coronial inquest notice for an unnamed, elderly woman, but the oddest part of all is the woman’s date of death: it’s five months away.
Who sent Bee this ominous message from the future? Could it have been one of her long-lost colleagues from the days before Bee became known as ‘the time traveler who went mad?’ Ruby has never talked to Granny Bee about her past, but this seems like a rather important time to start.
It’s 2018, and it is Odette’s first day as a volunteer at the toy museum. Odette is alarmed when she opens the front door and comes across an awful, sulphuric smell, but she is eager to make a good impression, and ventures inside to solve the problem. Nothing, however, could prepare Odette for what she finds: the body of an elderly woman, murdered, in the basement.
The police are called and an inquest takes place, but no answers are given. Why can’t the police find out who the woman was? Why does the inquest fail to determine who killed her? Why does it seem like everyone is trying to cover up the murder? The old woman deserves more, and Odette is determined to uncover the truth.
The Psychology of Time Travel is an impressive debut from Kate Mascarenhas. It’s not every day you come across a time travel murder mystery, especially an unpredictable one like this that begins with an intriguing premise and then twists and turns itself into a wonderful and wholly original read.
The Psychology of Time Travel boasts a diverse cast of female characters. All the main characters are women, represented realistically, flaws and all.
As its title suggests, this book also offers a nuanced and absorbing exploration of how time travel affects its main characters. Time travel is often portrayed in popular culture as something effortless, but this book delves into the complicated and often harmful ways in which time travel, if it were real, might impact mental health. In this, it’s reminiscent of Audrey Niffenegger’s brilliant novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife.
If you’re looking for a highly original murder mystery that has heart, go no further than The Psychology of Time Travel.
About the author:
Kate Mascarenhas is a half-Irish, half-Seychellois midlander. She has worked as a copywriter, an assistant psychologist, and a bookbinder. She lives with her husband in a small terraced house which she is slowly filling with Sindy dolls. The Psychology of Time Travel is Kate’s first novel.