Places in the Darkness, a review by Joanna

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Places in the Darkness

Chris Brookmyre

Orbit audiobook

14h 42m

Published 2017



Places in the Darkness is a serious sci-fi thriller by one of my favourite authors – but he normally writes crime fiction, so I wasn’t sure how I would find this one. I needn’t have worried – great storytellers can make any genre work. We listened to the audiobook in the car and both enjoyed it, even though this kind of story is more to my husband’s taste than mine.

Ciudad de Cielo is a large private space station just outside Earth’s atmosphere, built as a research base for future planetary exploration by a corporation called the Quadriga, and run by the Federal National Government (FNG). Alice Blake is a straight-laced over-privileged career politician who has just arrived to head up the base’s security service, with a plan to sort out the endemic corruption and exploitation that keeps the place running – but troubles the powers that be on Earth. Nikki Freeman is a former detective who now works for the Seguridad – the station’s corporate police force – with a sideline in fixing, protection and smuggling for one of the gangs that control CdC’s sleazy violent underbelly. The women butt heads from their first meeting, but then a gruesome murder is discovered  – the station’s first – which threatens to expose dangerous secrets. Can Alice and Nikki get past their differences to stop a terrible conspiracy?
This was a complicated cleverly plotted noir-style murder mystery featuring two intriguing female characters. Neither starts out likeable, but the more we learn about their backgrounds and see them in action, and as they spark off but also learn from each other, their character development was a major feature of the book and very well done. The world building was extensive – there’s a lot of details so you have to pay attention, and a large cast of characters to keep track of. There are plenty of twists and a complicated conspiracy which made this a more challenging listen than I’m used to, especially with all the acronyms and slang which might be easier to follow on a page. Having said that, the narration was excellent, with the sole female reader covering a wide range of accents convincingly. The hard sci-fi elements got a bit technical for me at times, so I was glad to have an aficionado on hand to explain the bits that got confusing. I liked the ending and this definitely felt like a complete story rather than the beginning of a series. Overall this was a good listen but recommended more to fans of proper hard sci-fi.

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