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Good, but Weaker than Others in the Series
on December 14, 2006
I like Rusch's Retrieval Artist series in general, but this book left me a bit unsatisfied.
As the back cover reveals, Miles' mentor Paloma is killed and he's not about to leave that alone, even when he becomes a suspect. Things become a bit more interesting when Miles inherits a MacGuffin -- something everyone seems to want, but no one is quite sure what it is.
If you are new to the series, do not start here. The story depends on your feelings about Miles and his former partner DeRicci, among others. One may be better off starting with The Disappeared (the 1st book in the series) or Extremes (the 2nd).
So, on to the meat of the review....
The good parts:
I am fond of the characters. Here, as in other books in the series, the story is told from multiple points of view, here primarily Miles and Nyquist (the detective investigating Paloma's death). This means the reader often has more information than either character, but each tends to find similar clues at around the same time, so one doesn't spend much time mentally tapping one's feet waiting for the characters to catch up. This does, at times, lead to some odd coincidences, but nothing that will badly strain suspension of disbelief.
Miles finds out some things about Paloma that he'd prefer not to know, a not uncommon problem for anyone investigating a loved one's passing. There are some well-written character moments.
The story includes more background on the early history of Earth's contact with other races, the first Dissappearance Service, and the first Trackers and Retrieval Artists. For the most part, the exposition is worked into the plot well.
I like Rusch's information and crime scene descriptions and the feel she gives to the hard pressed officers of Armstrong's police and port police.
The Bad Parts:
Not enough aliens. The series often deals with human interactions with aliens and often with Miles thwarting alien efforts to exact draconic penalties on Miles' clients. The alien angle to this story is slight, and the aliens motivations less interesting than the Disty or the Wygnin.
One of Miles' antagonists appears fairly early in the book and drives much of the action, but there's little depth given to his motivations and reasons. Many of the characters talk about his power, contacts, and influence, but we don't really see these qualities demonstrated. He doesn't seem to pose enough risk to Miles to make him a good adversary.
There's some odd pacing between the plot and character development. I found myself noting that Miles learns about the MacGuffin by about page 70, but doesn't actually get to see it until nearly page 200, and even then there are more delays before it is examined and explained. While I like the character development, it does overshadow the plot at times.
The MacGuffin is protected by a series of administrative barriers. There's a good explanation for one of those barriers, but no good reason given for the others to exist. It feels like an odd loose end.
There's a sudden dramatic event that leads to Miles being on the run and ups the ante of consequences. It feels like this scene was important to the plot and to Nyquist's actions, but when Nyquist finds out who was behind the dramatic action and why, it feels anticlimatic both in the off-screen resolution which is reported to Nyquist and it seems out of character for the instigator considering the risk to innocents and the instigator's presented goals.
A normal police procedue in a homicide is to suspect the victim's family and friends. Miles becomes a suspect immediately, but there's a curious delay in investigating Paloma's kin. Had Nyquist pursued that angle, he might have avoided about a third of the plot.
In the opening paragraph, Miles is deprived of his office by a malfunctioning environmental system. This is a useful plot device, as it forces Miles away from his own resources, but it feels tacked on -- more could have been done with Miles' discomfort at being a snail forced from his shell dealing with a difficult situation without his usual resources.
All in all, worth my time, but not as gripping as other books in the series.