April 2004
© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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Consequences by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Roc / Penguin Putnam PPBK: ISBN 0451459717 PubDate: 04/06/04
Review by Cathy Green

384 pgs. List price $ 6.5
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Consequences is the third novel in Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Edgar award nominated series about Retrieval Artist Miles Flint, who was first introduced in the Hugo Award winning novella “The Retrieval Artist”. The first two books in the series, which deftly combine the science fiction and mystery genres, are The Disappeared and Extremes (SFRevu 0803). While the reader who has read the first two books will be more familiar with the background information about Miles Flint and his former partner police Det. Noelle DeRicci, lack of knowledge of the first two books will in no way hamper or diminish the reader’s ability to enjoy Consequences. In fact, new readers (like me) will probably enjoy it enough to want to track down the other two, and Rusch provides enough background exposition that the new reader is never lost.

The book is set in an unspecified time in the future when Earth and worlds settled by humans are part of a vast interplanetary Alliance of human and non-human worlds. The rules of the Alliance require all members to respect the rules of all member worlds. Of course, many alien cultures are vastly different than ours, and definitions of crime differ as well. As a result, a person could find himself facing the death penalty because he stepped on a flower on another planet. As a result, organizations developed which would help people disappear and establish new identities on other worlds in order to escape unduly harsh punishments for actions that many would not consider a crime. Retrieval Artists are investigators who locate the Disappeared and reunite them with family if possible. Retrieval Artists work alone and trust no one, since the people they are trying to locate may have a price on their heads.

The book opens with an assassination on a distant world. At first this seems unrelated to the rest of the story, but as the plot develops, it becomes clear how it ties in. Having started literally with a bang, the scene then shifts to Miles Flint as he is uniting Carolyn Lahiri, a former disappeared with her parents in the city of Armstrong on Earth’s moon. Her parents had come to Miles when an amnesty on Etae had been declared which would allow Carolyn, a former combatant in the various Etae wars to resume her identity. Shortly after being reunited, all the Lahiris are murdered and Det. DeRicci is assigned to the case, which is a political hot potato because Carolyn’s parents were a prominent judge and doctor. DeRicci finds evidence that Flint was working for the Lahiris and visits him at his office, hoping he will assist her out of friendship, and also feeling that she owes him a heads up because they used to be partners on the police force. Flint refuses to help her because all the work he does as a Retrieval Artist must be done with the utmost secrecy. DeRicci is hurt and also a little angry at herself, since Flint is considered a suspect and her friendly heads up is going to be hard to explain, especially if Flint leaves Armstrong. Flint is upset by the death of his client and decides to investigate on his own, both to clear his name and to assure himself that he did not lead the assassin to the Lahiris. Also, being an honorable man, he feels he owes it to the Lahiris to find their killer.

In addition to the plot threads involving the simultaneous murder investigations of DeRicci and Flint, the third major plot thread involves a semi-secret meeting between Alliance ambassadors and representatives of the Etae government, which has requested admission to the Alliance. What the Etae government can offer in return for admission to the Alliance becomes a key plot point. The meetings are being held in Armstrong and complications ensue as the secret meetings become public knowledge. All three plot threads prove to be interrelated and are fairly neatly tied up in the last third of the book.

Both Miles Flint and Noelle DeRicci are interesting and likeable characters. Rusch ably weaves the various plot threads together. The internecine plotting and politics of the large interstellar Alliance are nicely developed. Rusch also clearly put a lot of thought into what the fallout of a bloody civil war like the one on Etae would be and the sort of difficulties the winning side would face in gaining acceptance and in dealing with the consequences of the actions that put them in power in the first place. In fact, the title of the book, Consequences, is the overall theme of the book, since everything that stems from the characters previous acts. Readers who enjoyed the previous books in the series will definitely want to read this one as well, and new readers should not be put off by the fact that it is the third in the series, since it works equally well as a stand-alone novel.

© 2004 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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