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Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre

Places in the Darkness

by Chris Brookmyre

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Ciudad de Cielo (CdC) is supposed to represent the future of mankind. It's a space station that is primarily set up to produce a colony ship that will take humanity to the stars as well as developing technologies that will aid in this quest. It's supposed to be a paragon of virtue where the best and best and brightest will lead mankind into the future. At least that's the story they feed you back on Earth but as Alice Blake is about to find out it couldn't be further from reality. We join Alice on her arrival at the station as she's due to take charge of the security oversight for the Federation of National Governments. The other POV character comes in the shape of Nikki Fixx (aka Sgt. Nicola Freeman of the Seguridad).. Not only does Nikki turn a blind eye to all the illegal activity on the station but she is also an active enabler for most of it. Using her position in the private security force that passes for law enforcement on the station to assist in her racketeering and protection schemes. So when a particularly gruesome murder is discovered shortly after her arrival, Alice uses the opportunity to tag along with Nikki on the investigation to see for herself just how bad things really are. When the body count starts rising and it’s not just their careers on the line can the two women learn to work together to solve the case or could it be that one of the two is actually behind it all?

This is not just a murder mystery in a science fiction setting as there’s some real hard science on show here along with many of the philosophical questions of identity, memory and what it means to be human that are associated with the genre. While there may be a few missteps with the science part that a few people will no doubt catch it doesn’t make the story any less enjoyable. The setup may take a little longer than the norm for Brookmyre but once the action starts it doesn’t let up. The two strong female leads are great characters to get to know with two very different personalities and backgrounds. So all in all a good trip into the science fiction genre while still retaining some of the author’s usual fare. ( )
  AHS-Wolfy | Aug 4, 2018 |
Where to begin with this one and not give away any spoilers?

It all begins like any usual episode of Law & Order would, with a regular Jane & Joe chatting during their commute to work. Apparently, even on a space station two people on their way into work can't avoid the happenstance of stumbling upon a dead body. And when I say stumbling upon, I mean finding bloody glistening body parts floating about in zero-g. And so begins this twisty tale on the CdC, Ciudad de Cielo.

Enter Nikki Freeman, our officer in residence on SeeDee. She walks both sides of the law so also is on the take as an enforcer & protector, depending upon what's needed. She's also the only one on the station who has experience in homicide (this was her area of expertise when she was planetside) so she's called in to head the investigation (a circumstance she warily accepts). Just in case the dismemberment wasn't enough to drive home the killer's sadism, when Nikki checks out the scene, she realizes that the skin is missing from all the body parts, which she shortly finds neatly folded and tucked into a flight suit bag that's partially stowed. Sadistic but tidy.

Also arriving on the scene is Alice Blake of the Federated Nations Government. Newly arrived on the station to take the position of Principal of the Security Oversight Executive. She's a stickler for the rules and is here to establish order out of disorder and ferret out the causes. The powers that be on Earth are spoiling for a reason to take over the station and the projects surrounding the Arca (long term generation ship plan, in short) and she may just find what they need to finally make that happen.

The women wind up together to deal with the murder. Nikki, trying to cover her tracks as much as solve the murder and Alice trying to investigate Nikki. In their interaction lies the real strength of the story. Both women balanced one another out well. Alice had a raging case of self-righteousness & Nikki had her cynicism.

While investigating the first murder, another body turns up and it's evident that Nikki is supposed to be the prime suspect and that's when things really jump off. And it's not just the dead bodies stacking up that's posing an ever larger problem, it's those memories that are disappearing at an alarming rate (those had me yelling at the characters earlier than it dawned on them to be worried)The story is pretty tense until the end but does have wonderful moments where some fairly deep and important philosophical arguments are put forth. If you want to think about humanity in all it's grace and grime, this is a nice sandbox to play in. And it's a well plotted out mystery too.

The world building was very well done. The descriptions of the space station were vibrant and was one of my favorite aspects of the book. It was claustrophobic in some areas and positively ghost town in others.

Favorite passage: In zero-g, the gentle ballet of objects in motion can make anything look elegant. Not this. Glistening organs dance gently around each other in the bright expanse, like motes of dust in a shaft of sunlight. Intestines curl and twist between sections of limbs denuded of skin, muscle exposed like illustrations in an anatomy textbook. She sees an empty skull, the top sheared off. The brain has been removed, floating free amidst this carnal constellation.

I loved the way this ended and would be happy to return to CdC again for another adventure. I don't even need to follow the same main characters, the world was that coolly rendered. I'd recommend this for mystery and scifi fans. Personally, it's a combination of my two favorites science fiction and mystery so I'm far more predisposed to love this. ( )
  anissaannalise | May 13, 2018 |
Places in the Darkness is interesting because it brings together two genres – mystery and science fiction.

CdC (Ciudad de Cielo) is a space station where people are doing pioneering work building a colony ship that will take future generations to the stars. It has become a beacon of hope to the people on Earth, and it has the proud claim that there has never been a murder there. When a mutilated body is found, the investigation falls to two people with conflicting agendas. Alice Blake, newly arrived representative of the governments of Earth, wants to do everything by the book, while jaded cop Nicola Freeman (known to everyone as Nikki Fixx) is wary of outside political interference.

As this book spans two genres it is front-loaded with two sets of obligatory scenes. We have the finding of the body, and the arrival of Alice, but we also have some explanation of how CdC works and the means of travel to and from Earth. I’m not a massive science-fiction fan and when I do read it I tend to be more interested in the political and cultural aspects than the technology. I’m happy to accept that it all works without a detailed explanation of the ‘science’. Fortunately, there isn’t too much exposition here (though I did skim a bit).

Once you’re over that bump the world is not unfamiliar to noir fans. Alongside the scientists and engineers who may have higher motives, CdC attracts a host of people who have reasons to leave earth – criminality, broken hearts, a desire to make money fast. It is home to dive bars, corruption and people either trying to forget, or to grab power for themselves. Overarching this are the political and corporate interests eager to exploit a captive workforce and the pressure to cover up criminality.

At the beginning of the novel Alice attends a talk by an eminent neuroscientist and the themes raised in the talk are threaded throughout the narrative, in particular the relationship between free will, society and technology. Many inhabitants of CdC have voluntarily had a mesh implanted in their brains to enhance their cognitive abilities, but it raises questions of how else it might change them.

You don’t have to be science-fiction fan to enjoy Places in the Darkness. It’s an atmospheric, fast-paced mystery in a gritty downtown setting, with some lightly drawn but thought-provoking ideas about individual choice and political and corporate responsibility. It just happens to be set in space.

This review first appeared on my blog katevane.com ( )
  KateVane | Mar 29, 2018 |
It was supposed to be a utopia, a city in the sky where only the elite lived, Ciudad de Cielo is the place, usually abbreviated to CdC and sometimes other names. There people work to advance humanity. Only sometimes the work is a load people have issues with, sometimes the pay isn't enough and sometimes the ordinary folk need a break. So an underworld has developed and part of that underworld is Nikki Freeman, a jaded cop whose alter ego Nikki Fixx is well known in the underworld. CdC is a place with low crime and low murder rates until a murder sends everyone into a tail spin. Alice Blake is sent from earth to help investigate but she has no idea who to trust There are factions and plots and more bodies.

Well that was an interesting twist on the locked room mystery, even if it's a bit frayed around the edges of that trope. Fairly believable overall. ( )
  wyvernfriend | Mar 20, 2018 |
Warning: this review contains spoilers

There’s no such thing as homicide on Ciudad de Cielo, humanity’s city in the sky that orbits the Earth. Any potentially suspicious deaths are ruled an accident. So it will be a challenge for the security apparatus to rule as an accident the death of a man who’s been disembowelled, his organs left to float eerily in zero-g.

This scene was PERFECT. I nearly laughed out loud and applauded at this nod to / update of the opening chapter of Quite Ugly One Morning.

The rest of this book is great, too. I love Brookmyre’s ability to write well-rounded female characters and to place women in positions of power in his fictional universes as a matter of course.

This isn’t just a crime novel, and it isn’t just a sci-fi novel. It tackles big ideas: the future of humanity’s exploration of space, the compromises and sacrifices people would have to make, how many of humanity’s baser instincts can be eliminated or controlled, if any… not to mention the persistence and fragility of memory.

I hesitate to say more about this book because I don’t want to spoil it (and I tagged my review as a spoiler as a precaution). It is worth fully immersing oneself in—it’s an enthralling ride. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Mar 8, 2018 |
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Publisher Annotation: Hundreds of miles above Earth, the space station Ciudad de Cielo--The City in the Sky--is a beacon of hope for humanity's expansion into the stars. But not everyone aboard shares such noble ideals. Bootlegging, booze, and prostitution form a lucrative underground economy for rival gangs, which the authorities are happy to turn a blind eye to until a disassembled corpse is found dancing in the micro-gravity. In charge of the murder investigation is Nikki "Fix" Freeman, who is not thrilled to have Alice Blake, an uptight government goody-two-shoes, riding shotgun. As the bodies pile up, and the partners are forced to question their own memories, Nikki and Alice begin to realize that gang warfare may not be the only cause for the violence. (Original), 448pp.… (more)

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