One of the first real classics of the modern era of Science Fiction, The Demolished Man isn’t necessarily Alfred Bester’s best work (I think The Stars, My Destination” holds that title), but this one sets the standard for both the SF murder mystery and the telepath in society genres.
The murder mystery part of it is done Columbo style, as we get to see all the details and it’s a matter of the investigating officers gathering the proper and usable evidence to put the antagonist away. I’m not a big fan of those kind of mysteries, as I like to figure out the whodunit myself. There also some debatable science in the book, as many planets in the solar system have been colonized to the point there are cities on Venus and Ganymede and the like, and travel between them occurs within hours and not months.
The telepathy aspect of the book is probably the most important, as telepaths, or Espers/Peepers as they are called, are a benevolent force melded into everyday life in a surprisingly global society. The Espers have ironclad rules of conduct between themselves and non-telepathic people, and they work toward the betterment of everyone. The bad apples are few and far between, though we end up meeting two of them in quick succession in this book.
The novel moves in a very rapid fire manner, and is very well written, with rather complex characterizations for the genre and the era. There is a couple of instances of somewhat flawed logic on the part of some of the characters, but everything is made clear in the end. The final few chapters have a very creepy feel to them.
The story should be on every Science Fiction fan’s Must-Read list.