Genre: Sci-Fi, Mystery, Colonization
About The Book
Nothing is new under another sun. Not even murder.
This mission should be simple. Exoplanetary scout Leif Grettison and ace pilot Yang Yong are off to deliver a load of supplies and reinforcing settlers to a recently colonized planet. It’s as routine as a starflight can be.
Famous last words.
Something is wrong with the colonists. They are astonishingly ill-suited for the task of settling a new world. The planet, too, is a poor place to plant a town for humans. Even if everything goes right, the colony might not survive.
Then one of the colonists is found dead. Murder is a possibility.
Not long after, another one dies—and this time, it’s definitely murder. In a world with only two hundred people, there’s at least one killer.
Meanwhile, the colony’s new leader has a plan—but Leif has doubts. Will this man save the settlement, or use his power to become a dictator?
Leif and Yong’s mission is clear: they must leave the colony in shape to survive.
Leif is a retired soldier, not a detective, and when it comes to investigating a crime, he doesn’t have a clue. Literally. Still, it falls to him to follow the evidence and find the killer. He also needs to deal with the leader and the leader’s plan. If Leif fails, the only mystery may be how long it will take for everyone to die.
I just finished the second book in Colin Alexander’s Leif the Lucky series. The first one, Starman’s Saga, tells the story of the first “starshot” – humanity’s journey to another star – from the perspective of Leif Grettison. Leif is an “everyman” character who wins a lottery to be a civilian traveler on the mission, and his military training serves him well as he navigates dangers both alien and human on a planet around another star.
Murder Under Another Sun is the second book in the series, and another thing altogether. While there are surface similarities with the first book – a new alien world with its own unexpected dangers, and the narrative voice of Leif Grettison, this one is quite clearly a whodunnit – as Grettison becomes the “first interstellar murder detective in the history of the universe.”
It’s a mantle he wears uncomfortably, as the colonists of Heaven – a misnomer if there ever was one – try to pull the wool over his eyes. Arriving at this hotbox of a world with a bunch of wide-eyed youths, Leif discovers that the first batch of colonists awaiting them are a literal thieves’ den – supposedly non-violent criminals shipped off of Earth to a new world. Their leader’s the worst – a conman named Jerry who has dirt on everyone, and makes a startling demand – that Leif and his starship pilot Yong take them back to Earth.
When Jerry is killed under mysterious circumstances, it sets off a chain of events that could destroy the whole colony.
Alexander has a deft touch with the mystery elements. Bit by bit things start to fall into place, and we can feel the drive toward an inevitable confrontation with the bad guys, and yet he still pulls off a few surprises along the way.
The alien world is well constructed and suitably dangerous (though a few of the danger elements feel like they were glossed over by the end), and the tension builds as we race toward the climax.
The characters are also well drawn. The books are all in first person – Leif’s – but Alexander manages to keep it from becoming claustrophobic, which is often an issue for me in longer single POV narratives. He’s also great at constructing complex characters, like Penny, a young woman who sometimes drives you crazy but is also very sympathetic. And even the villains have their good points.
In the end, Murder Under Another Sun successfully blends sci-fi and mystery to serve up a compelling, action-packed, intelligent tale that rings true with what we know about the possibilities for interstellar travel. This is one of my favorite sci-fi series in a long time, and well-worth the read.
Scott is the founder of Queer Sci Fi, and a fantasy and sci fi writer in his own right, with more than 30 published short stories, novellas and novels to his credit, including two trilogies.