The story of the colony ship Invictus, which precipitated the events in The Doppelgänger Gambit
Meisha Merlin have just republished the "Janna Brill and Mama Maxwell" trilogy in a single volume: Bridling Chaos. I had read the first book, The Doppelgänger Gambit, when it first came out, but could remember little of it (although the scene of how Wim was disabled had certainly stuck in my mind). So I reread it before starting on the next two.
Janna Brill is a leo -- a law enforcement officer -- whose partner of the last five years, Wim, is about to leave earth for a new colony planet. He and his wife try to persuade Janna to go with them, and she's sorely tempted when she discovers who her new partner is: the infamous "Mama" Maxwell. But before she makes up her mind she wants to solve one last case (that seems to have been triggered by a distress call from the colony ship Invictus): the death surely can't be murder, because the suspect has a perfect alibi, and the only way the leos can undermine it is to undermine one of their most powerful crime-fighting tools.
Writing a SFnal detective story is difficult, because enough of the futuristic background must be made available to the reader so that the solution isn't just a massive deus ex machina, but that background must be disguised enough not to scream out the solution. However, Killough solves that problem here by writing the kind of police procedural where the reader knows the culprit, and how the crime was committed, from the start, and the main fun is watching how the detectives solve it.
The future details are integrated well into the story -- the lack of any form of cash, so that all financial transactions are recorded, and everyone who wants to use the system has to be registered; the society of unregistered slighs living in a precarious barter economy [I'm not convinced that the transport tokens wouldn't have become a more universal form of unmonitored "currency", though]; the legalisation of many drugs; the watering down of police powers -- lots of good stuff. (That watering down is about the one thing that stops the electronic surveillance feeling like a totally repressive regime.) Rather too many coincidences needed to drive the plot, but this is a good story of an interesting crime in an interesting world.
The second "Janna Brill and Mama Maxwell" novel has a different structure from the first: here the reader is equally in the dark as to the villain, and even to the exact nature of the crime. What starts out as a simple gang-land car-jacking turns into a murder hunt on an orbital space platform.
This has the same well-drawn background world -- about the only detail that really jars is the way the officers keep having to hunt for a telephone to call in to the station. I particularly liked the way that a couple of background details have changed as a result of incidents in the first book -- and the way that these are just mentioned in passing, not belaboured.
A good sequel.
Law Enforcement Officers Brill and Maxwell's third case starts out looking like a simple hold-up at a political fundraiser. But soon there's a killing, and absolutely no clues at all. Is this the perfect crime, and just what is the crime, anyway?
I must admit, I figured out how it was done fairly early on -- but the cops themselves had a good reason not to work it out so soon. I certainly didn't figure out who had done it, though, despite all the clues being there. This is an interesting puzzle story set in an well-drawn world. I particularly like the trick, used in all three books, of having the police transmissions as a running background: it is a neat way of adding in lots of interesting background details.
So, a good conclusion to the trilogy of stories.