Now I chose this book for one reason and ended up liking it for entirely different reasons. It tricked me- in a good way. I can’t quite blame those who did up the blurb and put it under a certain genre because truthfully it is probably under the right genre and was described well in the blurb, but-
It really does belong in the Sci-Fi genre because the story takes place on an earth-like planet with two human colonist groups arriving at separate times from earth. The group who was there first got the best of everything and have an upper-class attitude about the smaller group who arrived later and were given a remote hostile island to settle. The second group don’t have the advantages of choice land or resources so their society system is different.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Once I got into the story, it didn’t have a Sci-Fi feel for me. I felt like I was reading about two cultures here on earth- one first world and one third world- with a chance after a couple hundred years for the wealthier country to think about opening its borders and giving the smaller dependent territory representation in government.
To add to this, its not just a general fiction about two cultures and people groups. It is also an intriguing murder mystery and political thriller. The story opens on the island of Santuario where a murder victim is discovered with odd characteristics. The local police authorities follow procedure and call in the special investigative unit from the main land. This teams up a Santurian and a Skanian investigative team for the first time. These two men are not interested in making history. In fact, at first they just get on each other’s last nerves because they don’t understand when they’re breaking a cultural taboo or just touch a personal hot button. Both have past histories that need redeeming and this is their big chance. Alex and Bengt soon learn that they are not dealing with a simple murder.
Bengt is now working in a world so foreign to what he knows that he must trust Alex to guide them through the morass of dangerous politics on Santuario. Nothing could prepare him for the living conditions, the might and corruption of the military districts controlled by mafia-like families, or the feelings he must suppress for his partner. Alex has serious trust issues and he walks in fear constantly from the military goons who are led by his own father. He suspects that this case and working with his ignorant colleague from the mainland will be the death of him- literally. And if that isn’t enough pressure, he can’t work out his personal feelings about Bengt.
So, yes, this plot was a surprise and a delightful one at that. I enjoyed following along as the two guys worked at solving their case, as the intriguing secrets behind different things came to light and as that subtle hint of romance blossomed into something toward the end. Like I said, I really didn’t get the usual Sci-Fi vibe off this one and felt more like I was just dealing with a dystopian that takes place on a different earth and isn’t really that either because it was a murder mystery most of the time. As to the romance, it runs a definite back seat to the other aspects of the plot though it is there tugging at the two guys the whole time.
The characters were fascinating creations because it is in their descriptions and thought processes that I got to know not only them, but the cultural differences they represented. It was cool to see them grow to understand each other and make their differences strengths instead of weaknesses. Secondary characters were always mysterious and suspect which made me watch them very closely as I read. I liked how there were no obvious ‘white’ hat good guys or ‘black’ hat bad guys because things weren’t always what they seemed. And that made all the characterizations good to my way of thinking.
The only part I found disappointing was the ending. I wanted things neatly wrapped up in a bow. While the case is solved, the relationship between the two men is left dangling a little with just a promise of something good, but later. Then I saw that this is the beginning of a series so I’ll reserve judgment to see if the resolution comes later.
I can recommend this to people who come from a variety of genre preferences since it would have appeal to the Sci-Fi reader, the mystery lover and those who like slow to build romance.
Copy received courtesy of Net Galley for review purposes
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