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by Lois McMaster Bujold

Pub Date: May 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7434-3533-8
Publisher: Baen

The umpteenth volume in Bujold's far-future adventure series (A Civil Campaign, 1999, etc.) interrupts dapper, diminutive gentleman adventurer Miles Vorkosigan's honeymoon (he married the widowed Ekaterin Vorsoisson) to handle a complicated emergency at a space station inhabited by Quaddies, genetically engineered humans who thrive in zero gravity because they have another pair of arms and hands rather than legs and feet. Miles, now a diplomatic troubleshooter, must determine the fate of a Barryar ensign who has fallen in love with a sexy but earnest Quaddie dancer and who was contemplating desertion when a bunch of his racist shipmates tried to snatch him back, leaving the dancer with a broken arm, ensign and crewmen in the Quaddie brig, and the Quaddie station commander confiscating the offending Barryar vessel. On top of this, another Barryar officer has disappeared, leaving behind a gruesome trail of blood. Miles plays detective Nick to Ekaterin's weaker version of Nora Charles, as they run into characters from previous tales, such as Miles’s former (and unrequited) lover, the hermaphroditic Bel Thorne, and a host of other schemers, none of whom is being completely forthcoming. Just when the story bogs down in dialogue, a rogue Catagandan threatens to explode a bio-bomb if the Quaddies don't set the Barryar ship free.

Though Miles remains clever and debonair throughout, too many early series references needlessly obfuscate a breezy, conventional, albeit deep-space, whodunit.