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Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Café Kindle Edition
"Bones Don't Lie" by Melinda Leigh
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I loved how the author juxtaposed the routine headaches of running a bakery slash diner with the fact that the diner is situated on a space station orbiting Saturn! But there’s more to tease the imagination than the die-for view. The day our hero is opening his restaurant he finds a dead body in the freezer. Turns out he’s implicated in a murder before he can finish stocking the shelves. Then there is the mafia don who owns the diner across the way giving the competition the evil eye. He runs much of what goes on within the space station and is so dialed into everything that one wrong move from our motley band of heroes—namely the new diner owner and his sidekicks—and they’ll be like so many flies in all the intricate webs he’s weaving of political corruption and nefarious black market dealings.
The mafia don wants to shut down the competition, but more than that he wants to get his hands on the little black book he believes our motley crew running the new restaurant has in their possession. They may have it, only they haven’t found it yet. And it allegedly holds the key to the shift in balances of power on the space station.
In short, the plot kicks ass.
It was cool, what’s more, learning about life on a space station, which is sheer speculation, of course, but the author evidently did his research so well the book oozed with authenticity, a bit like the book and the movie, The Martian.
There’s no shortage of dark humor, needless to say, both in the setup, by that I mean the premise of the story, and in how the author delivers on the promise of the premise as the story unfolds. I especially liked that one of the chief members in the motley crew of heroes is gay, and he’s a good guy, and it’s presented as no big deal. Usual billing for such a character is as the psycho bad guy or as the subject of politically incorrect humor. Glad to see the future does indeed hold some things to look forward to—at least in this author’s universe. If Hollywood can’t catch up with reality as it is now, maybe by the time this is made into a movie, or in the next hundred years or so, they will catch up with reality.
Other than growing their own food, the space station must deal with the fact that it also serves as a mining colony with the rough and tumble miners and the intrigue that surrounds them. The diner, ironically, becomes the hub for both of these worlds as the owner has to deal with the farmers for his supplies and the miners for his customers.
Meet Andorra Pett; with her trusty sidekick, she’s taken over a derelict café. On a mining station. It just happens to be orbiting Saturn!
She’s hoping for a fresh start, away from all the drama of her old life. It’s a chance to relax and start again in a place where nobody knows anything about her or her past.
But the café holds a secret, and secrets have a habit of coming out; whether you want them to or not. And being accident prone doesn’t help. The more you try to pretend that you know what’s going on, the worse it gets.
Andorra’s plans for peace and quiet get lost amid the revelations and skulduggery and she soon realises that the fate of the whole station lies in her hapless hands.
In space, you can still trip over your feet; the question is, will you land upright?
When I met author Richard recently at a blogger & author get-together in Exeter, he described Andorra Pett as 'Agatha Raisin in space' and that is exactly how she comes across - quirky, funny, likeable, with a sensitive side and a heart of gold, a habit of getting into trouble and most of all a need to put her supersleuthing into action! She's adorable! Aside from Andorra, all the characters are interesting and add value to the story, from Andorra's sidekick, best friend Cy, to diner owner Munro.
The book is intelligently written, professionally produced, and is a joy to read. The well thought out plot flows well, grabbing your attention and holding on tightly. There are twists and turns galore that I'd not foreseen. There is lots going on but it's so well managed that it doesn't become confusing. The complex relationships between characters add further layers to the darkness, and I love that it's all based on a mining station orbiting Saturn...this book satisfies both the crime thriller fan and the sci-fi geek in me all at once, which is fantastic! I can't wait to read Andorra's next adventures in Andorra Pett on Mars.
Unfortunately, on their first day, they find the body of Mike, the previous owner, who is supposed to have left the station suddenly after alcohol was banned, in one of the bar's two freezers.
It quickly becomes clear to them that local politics are sufficiently complicated that they'd be the most convenient suspects, even if it makes no sense. They can't report the body until they solve the crime.
I started this book expecting to find it silly and light, with the mystery just a convenience providing some structure. It's by no means a heavy, dark book, but there's some real substance to both the story and the characters.
Nearly everyone turns out to be more complicated and interesting than they might initially seem, and even the "bad guys," even the murderer, turn out to have real reasons that make sense from their perspective. Sometimes those reasons even include the greater good of the station, an inherently fragile environment that needs to be protected.
Overall, a pleasant and enjoyable surprise.
I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.