BSI: Starside: Death Sentence
by Roger Macbride Allen
Review by Gayle Surrette
Spectra Mass Market ISBN/ITEM#: 9780553587272
Date: 29 May 2007 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
BSI: Death Sentence is the second in the Bureau of Special Investigations series. Basically, BSI is a combination of police, diplomats, arbitrators, and jacks-of-all trades. They watch over humans throughout the galaxy, seeing that they get a fair deal. This time Special Agents Hannah Wolfson and Jamie Mendez are sent out to find the murderer of Special Agent Trevor Wilcox III. They also need to find out why he was killed and where he hid the decrypt key for the document he carried.
Trevor Wilcox was sent out on a fairly routine courier detail. He wouldn't learn anything about the message he would carry unless the contact gave him information when he arrived to pick up the item. Long overdue, his ship, the Irene Adler, was found as was the body of Wilcox. Trevor, a young agent, died of old age. All evidence points to the fact that he knew he was dying and that he expected to be boarded again after his death, so he'd hid the decrypt key for the document that he carried so that only another BSI agent could find it. The bad news was that so far no one had. The document's contents are unknown but could cause a galactic-wide war -- so it's imperative that it be found as soon as possible.
Now that we're up to chapter two, the tension just continues to build. Hannah and Jamie are sent to Metran to see if they can learn anything from the people that Wilcox had met with while on planet. Metrans are one of the elder races and the Unseen Ones who lived with the Metrans were an even older race. Hannah and Jamie are being dropped into the deep end of the pool sans swimming lessons and expected to figure it all out before they drown.
Once more Allen gives us a rich detailed world and civilizations with all the attendant rules, tensions, history, and backstory. He manages to pack the book with all the information that is needed with the clues right out there for all to see, but to stir the pot with enough miscellaneous information so that our main characters will solve the problem about the same time we do. The tension is kept throughout and the witty repartee is just what's needed to release some as you read along.
Allen has to be one of the best writers of hard science fiction going. While his novels are entertaining, they do manage to pack in a lot of information without that "as you know, Bob" feel.
If you haven't read BSI: The Cause of Death yet, you don't need to in order to follow this book but hey, that was a great mystery too so give it a try.