Series: Midsolar Murders #1
Published by Ace Books on October 4, 2022
Genres: Mystery, Science Fiction
Format: Kindle or ebook
Source: the publisher
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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….
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
A witty, suspenseful, and devilishly complex mystery set in space
Any reader of mysteries has come across innumerable series in which murders just seem to happen in the vicinity of the amateur detective–usually a woman. (Think Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, Amelia Peabody, and just about every heroine of every cozy mystery series ever written.) But what if you were that person in real life? It would be horrible. No one would want you around, and you would always be a suspect in law enforcement’s eyes—certainly after the second murder, and it would only get worse from there, no matter how good your alibi was.
That’s the situation facing Mallory, the main character (well, one of the main characters) of Station Eternity. Unable to handle the social isolation and the antagonism from law enforcement, she flees to the sentient space station Eternity. The station doesn’t admit human visitors other than the (rather unpleasant) Earth ambassador, but allows Mallory to stay. At least with few other humans around, Mallory isn’t likely to be involved in another death—until she learns that there’s an entire shuttle full of human visitors on its way to the station, and things rapidly go from “bad” to “worst-case scenario.”
I absolutely loved this space-based mystery, the first in a projected series. It’s witty, sometimes heartbreaking, suspenseful, and devilishly complex. (I couldn’t solve most of the puzzle, and I’m usually fairly good at that.) Well-paced action and increasingly high stakes kept me turning the pages, but it’s the Interesting, complicated characters that really captured my interest. Mallory and Xan, another fugitive, are the main characters, but there are also a number of people from their pasts, as well as some of the aliens presently on the station, most notably their friend “Stephanie.” (A universal translator translates not only alien languages but also names into the wearer’s native tongue.)
Speaking of aliens, there are several prominent races in the novel, each as wildly different from the others as they are from each other. One race is essentially made of rock; another is most similar to plants (trees, I think), although they have legs and are fully mobile; a third resembles large wasps or hornets, and share a hive-mind. All of the alien races are well-thought out, from biology to culture. Lafferty weaves all necesssary description and information seamlessly into the flow of the novel, so that you learn more about each species, and the station itself, as it becomes relevant.
The book itself is nonlinear, told in third-person limited POV with many flashbacks. I felt a bit bewildered in the beginning, plunked down in media res with no background, but the writing is so good and the characters so interesting that I was drawn in despite feeling a little lost. The flashbacks fill in the backstory over time, but there’s quite a bit of backstory, spread over much of the novel, so my understanding of what was going on was constantly growing, evolving, and becoming clearer.
Despite the complexities of its plot and the nonlinear storytelling, Station Eternity is a true mystery, by which I mean that the puzzle is eventually solved and the villain caught. And although I didn’t figure out everything, or even most of it, on my own, I did manage to identify a villain before the reveal. (Barely.)
I love the ways in which Lafferty eventually resolves the most immediate problems the characters face, while setting the stage for continuing character arcs in future novels. The series is billed as The Midsolar Murders, a clever reference (or homage?) to the long-running British television series, Midsomer Murders (22 seasons and counting), so it seems likely that more than one sequel is planned. With Station Eternity, Lafferty has set the standard very high. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with for book two!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Seasons 2022: Summer