Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Killer Advice

Novella by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Far too many characters arrive on a space station after their ship has caught fire and three passengers have been murdered. Then there is another murder on the station, and the prissy hotel manager and drunken station doctor team up with one of the ship's crew to solve the murder.

Not really the Agatha Christie bottled up murder mystery we're set up for. The reader has no information to help with the actual solution until the last two pages, and neither do any of the characters. The characters themselves are mostly broad types, although the central two are a bit more interesting. Viewpoints shift among a large number of characters throughout, which is interesting in that Rusch shows us that other people don't see certain characters the way they see themselves.

But most of the characters are barely fleshed out, all the viewpoints make us fairly certain none of those characters did it, leaving a whole mess of others we don't know or care anything about as the only suspects. We have almost no information on any of the passengers that aren't viewpoints at one time or another, so we can't really suspect or not-suspect them, or indeed care about them at all. Combined with not really caring about the viewpoint characters either, and the relatively nonviolent method of death, I didn't experience the least suspense while reading, and bordered on losing even my curiosity as to who dunnit or why.

It is a mystery whose specifics could only have happened on a spaceship or station, although, as with all things, the broader motives and situations are timeless. So I did find the SF justified, just not the length the story took without any clues or suspense. The very end was cute, with the fate of our central crewmember, hotelier, and beautiful, drunken lady-doctor, but it doesn't make the time spent worthwhile in my opinion.

I didn't see the ending coming! But then again, I couldn't possibly have, and I didn't really care to by the time we finally got there. Still, the writing moved along fast enough, there were traces of humor in the narration, and there was the one interesting character. So not a total loss.

2 out of 5 nuggets of murder advice are actually useful.

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