Book Review: Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre

Places in the Darkness by Christopher Brookmyre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher:  Orbit

Happy 2018! I'm back from my book review hiatus & for my first review of the year, I've begun with a science fiction mystery. I kicked off last year with science fiction so I mean to continue as I began. So, to the awesome read that is Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre. Where to begin with this one and not give away any spoilers?

It all begins like any usual episode of Law & Order would, with a regular Jane & Joe chatting during their commute to work. Apparently, even on a space station two people on their way into work can't avoid the happenstance of stumbling upon a dead body. And when I say stumbling upon, I mean finding bloody glistening body parts floating about in zero-g. And so begins this twisty tale on the CdC, Ciudad de Cielo.

Enter Nikki Freeman, our officer in residence on SeeDee. She walks both sides of the law so also is on the take as an enforcer & protector, depending upon what's needed. She's also the only one on the station who has experience in homicide (this was her area of expertise when she was planetside) so she's called in to head the investigation (a circumstance she warily accepts). Just in case the dismemberment wasn't enough to drive home the killer's sadism, when Nikki checks out the scene, she realizes that the skin is missing from all the body parts, which she shortly finds neatly folded and tucked into a flight suit bag that's partially stowed. Sadistic but tidy.

Also arriving on the scene is Alice Blake of the Federated Nations Government. Newly arrived on the station to take the position of Principal of the Security Oversight Executive. She's a stickler for the rules and is here to establish order out of disorder and ferret out the causes. The powers that be on Earth are spoiling for a reason to take over the station and the projects surrounding the Arca (long term generation ship plan, in short) and she may just find what they need to finally make that happen.

The women wind up together to deal with the murder. Nikki, trying to cover her tracks as much as solve the murder and Alice trying to investigate Nikki. In their interaction lies the real strength of the story. Both women balanced one another out well. Alice had a raging case of self-righteousness & Nikki had her cynicism.

While investigating the first murder, another body turns up and it's evident that Nikki is supposed to be the prime suspect and that's when things really jump off. And it's not just the dead bodies stacking up that's posing an ever larger problem, it's those memories that are disappearing at an alarming rate (those had me yelling at the characters earlier than it dawned on them to be worried)The story is pretty tense until the end but does have wonderful moments where some fairly deep and important philosophical arguments are put forth. If you want to think about humanity in all it's grace and grime, this is a nice sandbox to play in. And it's a well plotted out mystery too.

The world building was very well done. The descriptions of the space station were vibrant and was one of my favorite aspects of the book. It was claustrophobic in some areas and positively ghost town in others.

Favorite passage (& this was a tough choice): In zero-g, the gentle ballet of objects in motion can make anything look elegant. Not this. Glistening organs dance gently around each other in the bright expanse, like motes of dust in a shaft of sunlight. Intestines curl and twist between sections of limbs denuded of skin, muscle exposed like illustrations in an anatomy textbook. She sees an empty skull, the top sheared off. The brain has been removed, floating free amidst this carnal constellation.

I loved the way this ended and would be happy to return to CdC again for another adventure. I don't even need to follow the same main characters, the world was that coolly rendered. I'd recommend this for mystery and scifi fans. Personally, it's a combination of my two favorites science fiction and mystery so I'm far more predisposed to love this.

Summary:  A propulsive science fiction tale of murder and memory, all set on a futuristic space station.

Hundreds of miles above Earth, the space station Ciudad de Cielo - The City in the Sky - is a beacon of hope for humanity's expansion into the stars. But not everyone aboard shares such noble ideals. 

Bootlegging, booze, and prostitution form a lucrative underground economy for rival gangs, which the authorities are happy to turn a blind eye to until a disassembled corpse is found dancing in the micro-gravity. 

In charge of the murder investigation is Nikki "Fix" Freeman, who is not thrilled to have Alice Blake, an uptight government goody-two-shoes, riding shotgun. As the bodies pile up, and the partners are forced to question their own memories, Nikki and Alice begin to realize that gang warfare may not be the only cause for the violence.

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