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The Disappeared
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Roc Books, 374 pages

The Disappeared
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Kristine Kathryn Rusch was born in June 1960. She is married to author Dean Wesley Smith and they live in Oregon. Her books include Star Wars: The New Rebellion, The White Mists of Power (1991), Traitors (1994), Sins of the Blood (1995), Rings of Tautee (with Dean Wesley Smith), The Devil's Churn (1996), Alien Influences (1997) and the Fey Series (The Sacrifice (1996), The Changling (1996), The Rival (1997), The Resistance (1998) and Victory (1998)).

Kristine Kathryn Rusch Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Disappeared
SF Site Review: Stories for an Enchanted Afternoon
SF Site Review: Alien Influences

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

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Detectives Miles Flint and Noelle DeRicci don't usually cover the docks, but when a space yacht full of bodies drifts into port on the Moon, they get handed the case. It looks like a Disty vengeance killing -- repulsive, but legal under interstellar law -- and Flint is ready to chalk it up as a rare, distasteful fluke until two other cases involving alien warrants fall into their laps.

As Flint investigates he begins to suspect that somebody is hunting down people who have used "disappearance" agencies to flee alien justice, and is selling the humans to alien bounty hunters.

The law is clear, but neither Flint nor Noelle can stomach giving up two human fugitives to alien "justice" -- a baby taken from his parents as retribution for his father's crime, and a brilliant lawyer condemned to hard labour because she defended a guilty client. Flint is determined to find some evidence, some loophole, some ruse to save them from a terrible fate.

The Disappeared combines three distinct sub-genres: space opera, the detective novel and the cop partner story (a veteran and rookie are forced to work together despite their differences). The characters are solid, if not outstanding, and story tension is cranked up by problems from the past, bureaucratic indifference and a race against the clock.

It isn't wildly original, nonetheless Kristine Kathryn Rusch handles the story very competently, and she surprised me a little by leading her novel and characters toward obvious plot resolutions, and then twisting in more interesting directions. Also, her theme of international extradition and political refugees is inherently strong, and it is bolstered by protagonists who get emotionally tangled up in their work.

I had some quibbles. Like most detective novels, The Disappeared takes an uncritical view of our legal system, assuming that it is superior to all others on Earth (and in this case, the galaxy). This is a hobby horse of mine -- nobody in the English-speaking world seems to know a thing about the Napoleonic Code, for example, which forms the basis of two thirds of the world's legal systems.

I also found the theme of the book unintentionally humorous, given that the number of American bounty hunters, police and spies operating clandestinely inside Canada has reached an all-time high. I can only hope that our police show half as much sympathy to Canadians being abducted to face prosecution under repressive American laws, as Rusch's cops are willing to display for human victims of nasty alien laws.

Well, those are personal gripes. The Disappeared is a capably written formula story and a good light read.

Copyright © 2002 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at http://www.donna-mcmahon.com/.


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