In the continuation of this briskly paced sci-fi series, Mars private investigator Denver Moon investigates the possibility that invaders on the red planet are plotting to enslave human colonists.
Denver is working a case of missing persons when she stumbles on an alien’s lab with human experiments. She’s already aware of nameless, shape-shifting invaders on Mars and their attempts to control humans. But for now, Denver remains mum. The colony of Mars City needs the aliens’ tech for successful terraforming. She subsequently takes a case for Jard Calder, who runs a botsie (robot) prostitution business. Church of Mars monks are disrupting his business, and Jard wants Denver to get Bishop Rafe Ranchard excommunicated. That shouldn’t be difficult since Denver previously had the bishop excommunicated when she discovered he was embezzling. Why the church’s leader, Cole Hennessey, reinstated Rafe is a mystery, and Hennessey isn’t returning Denver’s calls. With help from her trusty AI, Smith, who’s installed in her Smith & Wesson revolver, Denver quickly finds a link between the bishop and the aliens’ experiments on colonists. Rafe, however, is a menacing individual with botsies at his command, and the plot against humans is bigger and deadlier than Denver anticipated. Hammond and Viola’s (Denver Moon: Metamorphosis, 2018, etc.) novel deepens an ongoing mystery within the series. New readers will easily settle into the story, but it’s best read from the beginning. The latest narrative deftly expands ongoing themes, from Denver’s relationship with her grandfather Tatsuo to her softening feelings toward botsies. In fact, botsie Nigel is her friend, and the image of Denver carrying and conversing with his head—his torso is on backorder—is a definite highlight. Despite relatively few characters, there are surprising turns among allies and apparent foes. And the prose, as always, is well imagined: “I closed my eyes against a blowback of detritus and sprinted as fast as I dared in the dark, a confetti made of charred leaves peppering my face and arms.”
Another blistering installment with a cool, clever female lead.