Military murder-mystery set on Phobos, one of the hurtling moons of Barsoom—er, Mars.
Martians live in domed cities and toil for SED, Inc., mining and refining barsoomium, a miraculous alloy that's found nowhere else and defies synthesis. The Peace Corps keeps potential uprisings in check. Lieutenant Mike Brogue, the only Mars-born Peace Corps officer and once a hothead, now figures the best way to change things is from within. Mike's called in to defuse the situation when some Freedomists hold the mayor of Vishniac hostage in a cavern below the city; but the cavern's full of ancient, unstable dynamite, and a single shot could destroy the entire city. Mike successfully resolves the situation, and immediately is summoned to research station Agraria on Phobos, where various personnel and Peace Corps troopers have been killed—by what seems to be a life form that hides under the dust! Industrialist Wilbur Isaac, his beautiful daughter Gabrielle, and their team have invented a form of artificial gravity and also made important advances in nanotechnology. Mike must assume command of the angry, resentful troopers. And he quickly finds the situation is not as it appears. The beast is an artificial life form, animated by nanotechnology and controlled by someone in Agraria. Who would have a motive for forcing the abandonment of the station? And what's the connection between the situation on Phobos and the hostage crisis Mike just dealt with?
Rather too many what-ifs to swallow in one gulp; nonetheless, an intriguing whodunit with well-developed characters whose mostly stock situations Drago handles with flair and skill: a newcomer worth keeping an eyestalk canted towards.