So I tried a bookstore in a nearest town with one, and came away with two cheap sci-fi paperbacks. I didn't have real high hopes, and so far, that pessimism's been borne out.
The book's about two marshals, Merrick and LaRue, assigned to solve the murder of an opera singer who was receiving treatment for arthritis by being exposed to radon in a mine. But someone has it in for them, so they might lose their jobs, which may not matter if the Spark of Creation movement takes over the government. Oh, and Merrick's a lycanthrope.
Going in, I didn't realize this was the fourth or fifth book in the series, so there's a lot going on that's already in progress. Vitola's good at bringing me up to speed on past relationships between characters, but there's so much going on it gets befuddling. There's lots of talk about alien abductions, inserts in people's heads, magic, chakras, the diamond mind, on and on. I still don't know if there's actual magic in their world or not. I mean, Merrick doesn't sprout fur or huge fangs, though she does gain enhanced senses and get somewhat larger. Initially, I figured the "people from the center of the earth" were everyday folks with the ability to change size, because magic, but no.
It's a pretty cynical book. The government is useless, corrupt, and serves almost none of its constituents. In response, all the people have adopted an "I've got mine, and screw you buddy," including our protagonists, who rifle through a dead man's possessions, stealing his clothes, because hell, someone else will if they don't right? Merrick and her shrink are in a sexual relationship, and he's using his findings from studying her condition to make money, just like her previous shrink did, which seems horrible on multiple levels, but they both seem fine with it. There's a tired acceptance the world is terrible, and even if a new government comes to power, nothing will change. Which is a viewpoint I can understand, but I expected to see one character that was genuinely altruistic or had some kind of hope. Ha, ha, nope. If every single character in the book accepts the world is fucked, I don't see much reason to care what happens.
I went into the book determined I would figure out whodunit, and gave up on that goal halfway through. There were only so many times I could see them interview someone about the deceased and get a completely contradictory version of him from the person before. He was a good singer, he wasn't. He was broke, he was wealthy. He was loyal to the government, he was a Sparker. I started to wonder if we were going to let him be determined by a vote. By a tally of 11-7, he is. . . pretending to be loyal to the government, while getting paid under the table! Wow, what an unexpected result!
'When I get my next paycheck, I'm going to have a T-shirt printed up that says ONE OF THE FEW WHO HAS NOT BEEN ABDUCTED. This particular phenomenon has gone on unabated for a hundred years or more and underground religions have grown up around the abduction experience. It is a sad statement of our times. Life on planet Earth is too much of a trial, and the only way folks can think to relieve the pain, frustration, and boredom is to join those who claim to have been taken aboard an alien spaceship.'