Paloma by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. ★★★★
Paloma is the fifth installment in the Retrieval Artists, a science fiction mystery series following former detective Miles Flint. The series starts with The Disappeared, but since each book is a stand alone mystery, you could theoretically read them independently.
Miles Flint used to be a detective working for the police force of Armstrong, a domed city on the moon. Then he bought a business from a woman named Paloma and became a retrieval artist, someone who goes looking for people who’ve gone into hiding due to alien laws at the behalf of relatives or others who don’t want them to be officially found. Since becoming a retrieval artist, Paloma has acted as a mentor and an adviser for Miles. At the start of the book, he receives an emergency message and arrives at her apartment to find a crime scene. Paloma has been murdered. Miles always looked up Paloma, but with her death he’s finding out that she’s not the woman he thought he was. Paloma had a dark side.
One of my favorite things about this series is when it includes aliens and alien cultures. For trade reasons, humans have entered an alliance with other human species that means when humans break a law in alien controlled space, they are liable to prosecution and punishment under alien laws. And given the vast differences between humans and alien species, what aliens consider a crime is not always fathomable to humans. To escape alien justice, people hire a Disappearance Agency who gives them a completely new identity somewhere else. Aliens and alien cultures don’t play a large role in this installment of the series, but the details of the situation are a part of the mystery. While I miss the inclusion of aliens, the exploration of Paloma’s past made up for the lack.
Since the very first book, the series has also included sections from the POV of Noelle DeRicci, who was Miles’s partner when he was on the police force. No longer a detective, DeRicci’s role in the series feels uncertain. She had less page time than ever before, even if she did still have a presence. The two other POV characters are a current detective and a reporter. I think I remember them from prior books, and it’ll be interesting to see if they remain in future ones. I do wonder if all of these sections were necessary. While I like Noelle DeRicci, did she really have a part to play in the plot? Same goes for the reporter. It’s possible that Rusch wanted to keep them fresh for future installments, but I don’t know what they were adding to this one.
With Paloma’s death, the only real friend Miles has left is Noelle, and that connection looks like it may be growing tenuous. Additionally, the revelations regarding Paloma may warn him off from trusting too many other people. I want to see where this goes, even if it takes me forever to track down the next installment in the series. My pacing for this series has been about a book a year, but I’ll see if I can speed it up.
I consider The Retrieval Artist to be a criminally under-known science fiction series, and if you have any interest in a mystery science fiction series, I encourage you to give it a try.