First outing for the Canadian poet and writer since Heart of Red Iron (1989). In Starry Nova, the port city of Fthel V, circuit judge Skerow, a telepathic, dinosaurian Khagodi, discovers that her fellow-judge, Thordh, takes bribes. Soon Thordh turns up dead, poisoned by a court clerk who also tries to kill Skerow. Now, an amphibious, genetically altered woman, Kobai, captured on Khagodis, where she was an enslaved collector of gold nuggets, was brought to Starry Nova and displayed in a tank outside a brothel as an enticement to customers. Before returning home, Skerow notifies GalFed, which sends agent Ned Gattes, a gladiator, to investigate. Ned's partner, Jacaranda, is put into a tank with Kobai, then murdered as a sexual spectacle by Zamos, the company that owns the brothel. Skerow's next case again involves gold, and also Nohl, the Khagodi who brought Kobai to Starry Nova, and Nohl's homicidal human accomplice, Ferrier: The pair work for Goldyne. Nohl, having been poisoned, confesses, but the malefactors attempt to poison Skerow, too. Saved by her ex-husband, Evarny, Skerow—and numerous other investigators on several scattered planets—must establish a link between Zamos and Goldyne and bring the guilty parties to justice. Overinvolved but unflinching with a splendid array of aliens, motives, and perversions.
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