Lightning Review

The Mimicking of Known Successes by Malka Older


The Mimicking of Known Successes

by Malka Older

We have a word among the bitchery: catnip. Catnip in this context is not the plant, it is the trope, or group of tropes that is our personal drug of choice. The Mimicking of Known Successes is a queer science fiction romance/mystery featuring a woman who is of the Sherlock Holmes mode of detective and another woman as the Watson type, although unlike some versions of Watson, this one is intelligent and useful.

I understand that many of you need read no further to know that a f/f Sherlock Holmes mystery/romance set on Jupiter is your catnip. To you I say only, “The game is afoot!”

In the future, humanity has fled a poisoned Earth and set up housekeeping on Jupiter. Jupiter is, of course, a gas giant, so everyone lives on giant platforms and farms using soil brought from various moons. This concept is amazing and I love it, and I wanted so much more worldbuilding. Still, the book packs a surprising amount into its pages. The exposition that exists fits neatly into the mystery format – as the characters ask questions, the reader fills in a picture of what life is like in this expanse of air.

Pleiti is a scientist at a prestigious university. Her ex-girlfriend, Mossa, is an Inspector, and comes to Pleiti for help with a case. Mystery fans will enjoy the ensuing mystery, science fiction fans will enjoy the ensuing adventure, and romance fans will enjoy this second-chance romance. I enjoyed all of these things as well as the tea and scones and other food items that appear on a regular basis. It is both grand (it’s set on Jupiter!) and cozy (a lot of tea and cookies are consumed in Pleiti’s study).

Pleiti and Mossa have a gentle, warm chemistry, made a bit shy by their previous break up. Unlike some other Sherlock interpretations, Mossa is not arrogant or intentionally rude, although she is very confident in her abilities, as she should be. Unlike some other Watsons, Pleiti is secure in her own life, justly proud of her own accomplishments, and helpful with regard to the case. They are both grown-ups who have had time to become more flexible than their younger selves, a key component to their new compatibility.

The writing technique is excellent, the worldbuilding interesting and poetic, the characters enjoyable to spend time with, and there’s tea. It was interesting, entertaining, and enjoyable – two thumbs up. My only quibble is that I’d have liked to see expansion of some of the elements of the book. I would have liked more of a peek into the first time that Pleiti and Mossa had a relationship. I’d have loved to have known more about the world – we see a small part of what appears to be a vast canvas. This is a short book that could easily have been longer, and more length would have given me a richer look at the inner and external lives of the characters. As it was, however, this was a lovely cozy read.

Carrie S

The Mimicking of Known Successes presents a cozy Holmesian murder mystery and sapphic romance, set on Jupiter, by Malka Older, author of the critically-acclaimed Centenal Cycle.

On a remote, gas-wreathed outpost of a human colony on Jupiter, a man goes missing. The enigmatic Investigator Mossa follows his trail to Valdegeld, home to the colony’s erudite university—and Mossa’s former girlfriend, a scholar of Earth’s pre-collapse ecosystems.

Pleiti has dedicated her research and her career to aiding the larger effort towards a possible return to Earth. When Mossa unexpectedly arrives and requests Pleiti’s assistance in her latest investigation, the two of them embark on a twisting path in which the future of life on Earth is at stake—and, perhaps, their futures, together.

LGBTQIA, Mystery/Thriller, Novella, Science Fiction/Fantasy
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  1. LisaM says:

    I have had trouble settling on a book and literally just picked this one up off my TBR stack. Hopefully that’s A Sign that I will enjoy it as much as you did!

  2. kkw says:

    About to start this! Not because this review and the fact that it’s catnip, although that would have done it had I realized, lol. I put it on hold when I saw Malka Older did a panel on comfort reads with KJ Charles, T Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon), and Martha Wells. I didn’t watch it, but I was sufficiently impressed by her taste in comfort reads -and embarrassingly yes because I approved of the cover. One day I will become sufficiently evolved not to care about things that I know better than to care about, sigh.

  3. LisaM says:

    @kkw She wrote a post on about comfort reads as well. And I see KJ Charles is one of the blurbs on her book. At the time I thought that showed KJC is becoming better known and appreciated (as she should be). Now I want to fund the panel you mention!

  4. FashionablyEvil says:

    @LisaM—pretty sure the panel (or a very similar one) was hosted by the Fountain Bookstore in Richmond. (I registered and totally meant to attend and then forgot the day of!)

  5. Kareni says:

    I have a library hold on this and look forward to its arrival. Glad to see that you enjoyed it, @Carrie S.

  6. SB Sarah says:

    I’m doing a podcast episode with KJ Charles about the Blessings series and books that are comfort reads soon, so stay tuned!

  7. LisaM says:

    @SB Sarah I found the Blessings series through KJC’s recommendations on Goodreads. I’m already looking forward to that episode!

  8. B says:

    I loved this! and I share Carrie’s wish that it had been longer. Now I hope that the author will write more books featuring Mossa, Pleiti, and the Jupiter settlements.

  9. Michael I says:


    A second Mossa & Pleiti book (The Imposition of Unnecessary Obstacles) is listed on Malka Older’s Aamzon and Barnes & Noble pages with a February 2024 release date.

  10. Maeve says:

    I haven’t listened to it yet, but here’s the Malka Older panel discussion

    I loved this book!

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