While searching for stolen artwork, an investigator uncovers a possible murder and political conspiracy in Freemartin’s enjoyable sci-fi mystery debut.
On an Earth-like planet called Astrogea, people are tattooed at birth with their zodiac signs, which dictate how they look, where they live and with whom they associate. This categorization has resulted in some hostilities between people of different signs or groups of signs, but no one is more disdained than the Cuspians—those born between signs who don’t strongly identify with either. Astrogean private investigator Margo Ramm is summoned by Dermot Justice, a wealthy, ailing politician, to find some priceless pieces of art that have gone missing from his home. Margo arrives to find his vast villa full of potential suspects: Justice’s ill-tempered second wife; his stern personal physician; his self-important business partner and the partner’s supermodel daughter; a niece and nephew with checkered pasts; and the musician husband of Justice’s deceased daughter. As Margo investigates, she begins to doubt the houseguests’ supposed concern for Justice’s health. She also finds that there may have been greater crimes committed than art theft—perhaps even a murder. Imperfect and likable, Margo was abandoned at birth and raised in an orphanage, as many Cuspians are in this world. She suffers from bouts of self-doubt but proves to be strong, intelligent and capable. The odd cast of suspects adds to the tension as their shifting loyalties make it difficult to point out the guilty party. Plot twists and unanswered questions abound while the story builds to an action-packed climax in which all the characters are brought together at once. At the end of this volume, the first in a planned series, the author strikes just the right balance, with the threads of the primary mysteries sewn up but one unsolved mystery lingering amid hints of growing political and social unrest in Astrogea. Undoubtedly, there’s room to explore some intriguing stories in future volumes.
A quirky, satisfying mystery that will leave readers eagerly awaiting the next installment.