RogerBW's Blog

The Warrior's Knife, Eric Thomson 24 April 2023

2017 SF/mystery, first of an ongoing series. Caelin Morrow is an Inspector in the Professional Compliance Bureau, dedicated to rooting out dirty officials (even among the police). But when an alien ambassador is murdered, that lands on her plate too.

It quickly becomes clear that nobody is what they seem and everyone has their own agenda… and to me at least it felt less like a mystery and more like an espionage story, from the patsy's point of view. Sure, Morrow can go in planning to

"Nibble around the edges until I reach the center. Along the way, I'll likely annoy enough people to trigger a few useful reactions that could point us at the truth."

like all the best noir investigators, but her characterisation is basically "straightforward honest cop" and doesn't get much more complex than that – and neither does anyone else's.

There's a lot of going back and forth asking the same people the same questions, and ruffling feathers, and can you trust this person or that one. And a key witness against a mobster known for the number of people who "commit suicide" rather than testify against him is casually left unprotected under house arrest.

As things progress it becomes apparent that Morrow is being played… and maybe I was reading it wrong, but I ended up feeling that the incorruptible cop from the incorruptible bureau had fallen for the manipulator's pitch about the shadowy conspiracy of bad guys and that's why you have to make the investigation come out looking like this. (Also we've set things up so that you have to make a decision right now and it's the only one left for you to make.)

I was interested enough to finish the book, but I think Thomson wants to write about secret agents being awesome more than he wants to write about cops staying honest even when the awesome secret agents spin them a line, and I'm not in the market for any more of these.

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See also:
Edge of the Future, Andria Stone

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