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SciFi Review – Places in the Darkness


Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


Looking for a gritty mystery set in a space station?  Got it –  PLACES IN THE DARKNESS by Chris Brookmyre.

Space station Ciudad de Cielo – City in the Sky – is engaged in humanity’s quest for the stars. Here it is that the spaceships are being tested and will eventually be built to carry us to new worlds. In the meantime, it is a home for 100,000 people, embodying a society that is supposed to reflect the very best that people can become. Everyone is working for its noble ideals.

Yeah, you didn’t really believe that either. People are people, and wherever we are, there’s going to be noble ideals, sure, but there will also be veniality and corruption. In CdC, there’s bootlegging, prostitution, graft and more. What there isn’t is outright murder. Sure, a few “accidents” happen now and again, which are covered up quickly by the Seguridad. You can’t let that stuff get back to Earth, after all, they might send their own security forces to crack down. Nope, all is well, nothing to see here.

Nikki “Fix” Freeman is an officer in the Seguridad and also one of the most corrupt out there. She runs a protection racket and drinks herself to oblivion almost every night. Everyone knows Nikki. Most of them are afraid of her.  Alice Blake is an idealistic bureaucrat newly sent from Earth as a deputy with the Federal National Governments – she’s a big deal charged with oversight of the Seguridad. She believes in the noble aspirations of the station, that there isn’t any corruption and if there is, she can root it out.

Just as Alice arrives on station, a horribly mutilated corpse is discovered in a cargo bay. This is so bad it cannot be hidden.  There are no homicide investigators on CdC…except Nikki.  Nikki is appalled to be chosen. Nothing about this can be good for her. But there’s not much choice.  And Alice is appalled at just how crooked Nikki is. Then more bodies start to pile up. Is this the work of a deranged killer? Or does it have an even more sinister motive?

Brookmyre gives the reader clues right in the beginning where he’s going with it.  His pacing is very good, with Nikki lurching along from disaster to disaster until everything she knows starts to look suspect, what she remembers might not be real, and what she doesn’t remember might kill her.  We can be sure that Alice is going to have surprises of her own and Brookmyre doesn’t disappoint us there either.  We get two strong female characters who change over the course of the book. Excellent sense of place with descriptions of how the space station is put together and a little about how it’s run. The desriptions of the “lens” and the mesh implants give a sense of how people interact.  I would have liked a bit more about the normal day to day ops, but the novel is not about normality, so no matter.  The identity of the initial murderer was a fun surprise. I didn’t guess the ultimate villain but an alert reader might not have any problem there. I think the motive got a little too convoluted towards the end, but it wraps up nicely.



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