Jay Caselberg,
Metal Sky
(Roc, 2004)

Jack Stein is a private investigator with an unusual talent: he finds his clues in dreams and the residual energies of objects. Lately, though, his dreams have been empty, and the clients haven't exactly been crawling out of the woodwork.

Then Bridgett Farrell comes to his office. She wants Jack to find an antique she claims is a family heirloom, a metal tablet with odd symbols inscribed on its surface. But even without his talents, Jack can sense something odd about Ms. Farrell; for one thing, she's working awfully hard at the seduction gig, and for another, his ward Billie doesn't like her. Jack takes the case, and not long afterward, the first dead body turns up. Naturally, the police think Jack had something to do with it.

Metal Sky is an interesting blend of science fiction and mystery, but the story isn't about the science fiction --that's just the setting, the world in which the mystery takes place. In other words, this isn't all about starships and technobabble. Instead, it's the unfolding mystery that keeps the reader enthralled, from the question of what the mysterious tablet really is to what Ms. Farrell is really up to.

This is a second novel about Jack Stein and his ward Billie, but as Metal Sky does not seem to be a direct sequel, it is not necessary to have read Wyrmhole to understand what's going on.

The mystery is nicely convoluted, with Jack's vaguely hard-boiled (soft-boiled?) narration moving the fast-paced story right along.

by Laurie Thayer
23 December 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.