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A Difficult Trick, Performed Well
Bridling Chaos
Lee Killough
Writing a science-fiction mystery is a task difficult to do well -- either you get too involved in the SF aspects, and slight the mystery (or, worse yet, make the mystery impossible to legitimately solve because it turns on things that don't yet exist), or you concentrate on keeping the mystery scrupulously fair to the reader and wind up killing the Sense of Wonder that is essential to SF.

Usually SF Mysteries are Good Mysteries but Mediocre SF or Good SF but only Middling Mysteries... or, worst of all, Bad Mysteries and Worse SF.

Which brings us to Lee Killough, who has quite nicely performed the trick three times (though i must say that the second of the three novels here reprinted is the weakest of the three, it is by no means a Bad Story).

Part of the equation in a story like this is to create a viewpoint character the reader will enjoy following and through whose eyes the society and background of the story will be presented, and Killough's Janna Brill and her aggravating partner, "Mama" Maxwell fit the bill perfectly.

Janna and Mama are "lions" ("LEOs" -- "Law Enforcement Officers", in an example of the plausible future slang that Killough uses just enough of to give a sense of time and place, but not enough to require a glossary or footnotes), in a time when cops can no longer carry lethal weapons, when the internal-combustion engine has been outlawed and when giant ramjet starships carry colonists in suspended animation to new lives on distant worlds.

And when the SCIB Card -- a universal ID card -- has supposedly made it impossible to avoid leaving a paper trail of your day-to-day life that documents where you've been and when you were there.

And it's the death of a partner in a firm that specialises in outfitting colonial companies that drives the first story, in which we first meet our intrepid heroes. Mama is sure that killer is the dead man's partner... but his card records prove he was nowhere near the scene of death at the time of the crime.

In the end, justice is served and the stories all reach a satisfying conclusion.

((Incidentally, based on the three books from them i have so far, i would pretty much recommend automatically buying anything you see with the Meisha Merlin imprint...))