Amateur detective Mallory Viridian’s talent for solving murders ruined her life on Earth and drove her to live on an alien space station, but her problems still follow her in this witty, self-aware novel that puts a speculative spin on murder mysteries, from the Hugo-nominated author of Six Wakes.
From idyllic small towns to claustrophobic urban landscapes, Mallory Viridian is constantly embroiled in murder cases that only she has the insight to solve. But outside of a classic mystery novel, being surrounded by death doesn’t make you a charming amateur detective, it makes you a suspect and a social pariah. So when Mallory gets the opportunity to take refuge on a sentient space station, she thinks she has the solution. Surely the murders will stop if her only company is alien beings. At first her new existence is peacefully quiet…and markedly devoid of homicide.
But when the station agrees to allow additional human guests, Mallory knows the break from her peculiar reality is over. After the first Earth shuttle arrives, and aliens and humans alike begin to die, the station is thrown into peril. Stuck smack-dab in the middle of an extraterrestrial whodunit, and wondering how in the world this keeps happening to her anyway, Mallory has to solve the crime—and fast—or the list of victims could grow to include everyone on board….
Lafferty (Six Wakes) tries to amalgamate a near-future sci-fi setting and a murder mystery plot into a breathless space adventure, but it never quite takes off. Brash college dropout Mallory Viridian used to think her frequent proximity to people found murdered was simply unlucky. But as time passed, more bodies piled up, and Mallory, now a private investigator, worries that the pattern is more than a coincidence. While authorities grudgingly respect her ability to find the killers and readers enjoy the novels she builds out of her gory experiences, Mallory decides to exile herself to the sentient Station Eternity, an outpost of star-hopping aliens who recently arrived in Earth's orbit as galactic tourists, for the safety of those around her. Then, of course, someone is murdered on the station. Together with secretive ex-soldier Xan, Mallory sets out investigating. A plethora of quirky alien and human characters inveigled into many subplots muddle through this middling tale, which is often interrupted by disjointed flashbacks. Sci-fi fans will enjoy the hip conversations of Lafferty's aliens, who are connected in symbiotic two-race pairs, but mystery buffs will see the murder's solution coming from a light year away. Only Lafferty's diehard fans need apply.