Another far-future adventure for obsessive relic locator/dealer Alex Benedict and his gorgeous pilot/assistant, Chase Kolpath (Polaris, 2004, etc.).
When Alex examines a strange old cup inscribed with English characters, he’s sure it’s from the vanished Seeker, one of two transport ships aboard which 5,000 colonists fled the U.S.’s 27th-century religious dictatorship. Nobody knew where their planet, Margolia, was located, and the colonists were never heard from again. Now, 9,000 years later, Margolia is a myth, like Atlantis. Following an equivocal chain of evidence, Alex and Chase infer that two space Survey employees stumbled upon Seeker during one of their voyages, filed a false report and then died in an accident. Chase must visit the creepy, telepathic alien Mutes to retrieve the original ship’s log. After more sleuthing—not to mention the unwelcome attentions of rival dealer Oliver Bolton, and the explicit disapproval of archaeologists and Survey bigwigs—Chase and Alex discover the system where Seeker drifts, derelict, its engines having exploded. They retrieve some artifacts, fight off a murderous attack by a robot probe and return home, narrowly avoiding an assassination attempt. However, Seeker’s system contains a planet that might once have been habitable, as well as the other colony ship and a space dock in mystifyingly eccentric orbits. Was this Margolia’s original location? If so, what happened 9,000 years ago to wreck the system and the colonists’ hopes?
Sounds far more exciting in summary than when stretched over several hundred pages, and it’s hard to sympathize with protagonists who are merely looters. What really grates is that McDevitt is capable of much better work.