Looking for a good read? Here is a recommendation. I have an unusual approach to reviewing books. I review books I feel merit a review. Each review is an opportunity to recommend a book. If I do not think a book is worth reading, I find another book to review. You do not have to agree with everything every author has written (I do not), but the fiction I review is entertaining (and often thought-provoking) and the non-fiction contain ideas worth reading.
A Noir Gumshoe in the Far Future
By MARK LARDAS
July 19, 2020
“The Vanished Seas”, by Catherine Asaro, Baaen Books, 2020, 363 pages, $16.00 (Trade paperback)
Major Bhaajan retired from the Skolian military and became a private detective, operating out of the City of Cries, the capitol city of the Skolian Empire, located on the planet Raylicon. She was raised in Undercity, a subterranean warren beneath the City of Cries. She is the go-to investigator for the House of Majda, who rules the Skolian Empire. They keep her on retainer.
In “The Vanished Seas”, by Catherine Asaro, a routine and boring assignment to observe reactions at a society party takes an unexpected turn. The woman hosting it, Mara Quida, vanishes during the party. Mara, the Vice President for Marketing and Sales at Scorpio Corporation, was hosting the party to celebrate a major contract being won by Scorpio.
No one knows how Mara Quida disappeared. No one, including her husband Lukas, knows why she disappeared. Violence appears involved, but no one heard anything from the bedroom where Mara Quida swiftly and silently vanished away.
Colonel Lavinda Majda, third in line to the Majda throne, and Bhaajan’s sponsor with the House of Majda, was also at the party. Lavinda had Bhaajan attend the party because the House of Majda is uneasy about Scorpio Corporation. Scorpio is not known to be doing anything wrong, but Lavinda has suspicions. With Mara’s disappearance, those suspicions deepen. Bhaajan is directed to investigate.
Bhaajan’s investigation appears unwelcome. Bhaajan gets attacked – in mid-day in the middle of the City of Cries. There is no clear evidence the attack was motivated by the investigation, but the timing is suspicious. Bhajan redoubles her efforts.
She soon discovers evidence of a conspiracy by senior officials at Scorpio and others highly placed in Raylicon society. But the evidence found is tenuous. Bhaajan is not sure whether they are signs of a conspiracy against the House of Majda, simple industrial espionage, or even innocuous – a research effort being concealed for the commercial gain that comes from a technological breakthrough.
What does become apparent is the conspirators, whoever they are, are playing with dangerous physical forces, forces that have the potential to destroy the City of Cries. Moreover, whatever is involved seems to entangle Undercity where Bhaajan grew up and still prefers living.
“The Vanished Seas” is another tightly-paced and tautly-written mystery set in Asaro’s matriarchal Skolian future. A good stand-alone tale, it is a continuation of the adventures related in the series’ earlier books, Undercity and The Bronze Skies.
Mark Lardas, an engineer, freelance writer, amateur historian, and model-maker, lives in League City. His website is marklardas.com.