01/04/2009. Contributed by Gareth D Jones
pub: Bantam Spectra. 421 page paperback. Price: $ 6.99 (US), $ 9.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-553-58728-9.
check out websites: www.bantamdell.com, www.rmallen.netand www.bsi-starside.com
Two agents of the BSI are sent on a top-secret interstellar mission to conduct 'Final Inquiries', a Kendari euphemism for a murder inquiry, in this entertaining space opera mystery.
It's one of a series and as such I felt that although this is a stand-alone story, I was missing some of the background information to fully appreciate the plot. There were several references to previous missions and the antagonism between humans and Kendari that evidently formed the backdrop, but nonetheless I was able to immerse myself in the adventure and enjoy the book.
The galactic civilisation against which the book is set has been interestingly developed, an ancient civilisation of Elder Races for whom the recent emergence of Human and Kendari has caused quite a stir. This political element was present throughout the book, making a fairly straight-forward murder investigation far more intriguing.
The story takes place on the Vixa homeworld, a race whom Roger MacBride Allen does an excellent job of describing as completely alien. This is done not just with their physical appearance, but through well thought-out moral, social and psychological behaviours.
All of this does a good job of maintaining interest throughout the book despite flaws in the mystery elements of the plot. There seem to be several obvious clues missed by the investigators and important points that they fail to share with each other.
Agents Hannah Wolfson and Jamie Mendez were disappointingly simplistic. They could be any agent in any book. Despite several references to their outstanding record and abilities they don't develop significantly or open up throughout the course of the novel. I found this particularly frustrating when they dropped hints about their background that were never explained. Maybe you get to know them more in the earlier books.
This is an entertaining enough example of Science Fiction detective work, but one I feel needs to be read as part of a series to be fully appreciated. I was intrigued by the galactic political situation and several other topics that were lightly touched upon and there's obviously plenty of scope for more in the series.
Gareth D. Jones
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA