I loved Vaughn’s YA space opera adventure Martians Abroad – see my review here – so when this one popped up on Netgalley, I immediately requested it and I’m so very glad I did…
A century after environmental and economic collapse, the people of the Coast Road have rebuilt their own sort of civilization, striving not to make the mistakes their ancestors did. They strictly ration and manage resources, including the ability to have children. Enid of Haven is an investigator, who with her new partner, Teeg, is called on to mediate a dispute over an old building in a far-flung settlement at the edge of Coast Road territory. The investigators’ decision seems straightforward — and then the body of a young woman turns up in the nearby marshland. Almost more shocking than that, she’s not from the Coast Road, but from one of the outsider camps belonging to the nomads and wild folk who live outside the Coast Road communities. Now one of them is dead, and Enid wants to find out who killed her, even as Teeg argues that the murder isn’t their problem. In a dystopian future of isolated communities, can our moral sense survive the worst hard times?
Post-apocalyptic society is slowly recovering, though with far less resources. As far-flung communities live hard-scrabbled lives by scavenging and living off the land, law and order is imposed by travelling investigators. Enid is one such investigator, paired with a newbie and on a straightforward assignment that should have her returning home for the birth of a longed-for baby. And then, just as they are in the process of wrapping up the issue that brought them to Estuary, a dead body is found, washed up on the mud flats…
The world is beautifully depicted through Enid’s first person viewpoint. I felt the humidity, the reek of the mud and got to know the shocked, cagey characters living there. They were already wary of investigators due to a twenty-year-old scandal involving one of the women cutting out her birth control implant – a major infraction in a society where resources are so very scarce and birth rates are rigidly controlled to ensure no one starves. Even after all this time, Neeve is still ostracised by her neighbours and banished to Far House, where she lives with others who don’t really fit in. So no one is freely talking the investigators and Enid is left with a sense that there is something else going on…
This is a cracking whodunit. Enid is a sympathetic, capable protagonist with years of experience behind her and yet yearning to return home in time to be there at the birth of the baby – a baby that her efforts have helped to bring into being by earning the banner that allows her family to reproduce. She is further hampered by her raw new partner, who pounces on a pet theory and won’t let it go. The tension rises, along with the stakes, as Enid is determined to discover who the unknown young woman is and why she has been murdered. I picked this one up and couldn’t put it down until I reached the end. Though I had guessed part of the puzzle, I was still shocked to discover the perpetrator. Highly recommended for fans of science fiction murder mysteries. While I obtained an arc of The Wild Dead from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
I really didn’t know much about this series until I read your review, but I’ve seen both books around and wondered. So glad this was worthy of a 10😁
Oh yes – I’ll be looking to track down Bannerless – I just wish these were available as ebooks…
I don’t know that I’ve ever read a science fiction murder mystery, but I’m so excited to see your 10/10 rating that I’m going to have to give this one a try. The worldbuiding sounds incredible too!
It is a cracking read:))
A 10 – I’m going to look this one up.
Oh, it’s worth it. This is a remarkably strong whodunit:)
Yep. Loved it!
This sounds like a cracking good mystery.
It really is, Rae:). I think this one is right up your alley!
Thank you for your review! I remember being doubtful about Martians Abroad, but this one seems more like something I’d enjoy. I’ll definitely keep it in mind for later.
This is a stormingly good book – but heartbreakingly, it isn’t available as an ebook. And I’m desperate to get hold of the first book – but don’t very much want yet another print book in the house:((
I know how you feel. “No ebook” is close to “no deal” for me. With the amount of moving, I have enough print books already, and I prefer only to get authors I really love or the hard cover editions.
Absolutely! We simply don’t have the space…