REVIEW: Maze-Born Trouble by Ginn Hale
A dead girl, a cop he can’t forget, and a price on his head. All on a space station at the edge of a black hole. Just another day’s work for P.I. Lake Harmaa. P.I. Lake Harmaa escaped the darkness and intense gravity of Sisu Space Station’s Maze Sector by turning traitor and spying for the Feds during the war. He has no intention of risking his neck by going back down into those depths, where there’s a price on his head and more than a few souls who wouldn’t mind him turning up dead. But when he’s framed for a brutal murder, Lake realizes he must return to the Maze and settle old scores.
Dear Ginn Hale,
I preordered this novella as soon as I learned that it was available. I would characterize it as a scifi mystery with romantic elements.
Amazon lists the length of the story as 80 pages and it has 1539 locations on my kindle, and I really liked that every page of it was used to the fullest. We meet Lake Haarmaa in his office when police officer Mateo Espina-Aguillar comes to question him about a certain young woman Lake was hired to find several months ago. Apparently she has been murdered and the police found Lake’s contact information (contact chip) on her. It looks like somebody is trying to frame Lake for her murder, but it is also pretty clear that Aguillar (he is called by his last name for most of the story) believes in his innocence. Lake explained that he found the girl at her father’s request, tried to give her some useful advice, and left her his contact chip, but that was it.
The story moved faster and faster with every page. Very soon, while Aguillar is still there, two people are trying to murder Lake. One of his assassins end up dead because both Lake and Aguillar fight back, and the other assassin (who was trying to run away) ends up dead as well, but not because Lake or Aguillar killed him. Somebody else did.
Lake thinks that whoever is trying to frame him is from his past. I thought the world-building was top notch, and for an 80 page story it was maybe a bit too detailed. But I am not complaining here – quite the contrary.
“ Lake had been a eight years old when Federal forces rediscovered Sisu Station and the population that had grown up there after two centuries of isolation. Then the forgotten outpost had consisted only of the primary phase of construction: the fused asteroids and mass generator that comprised the Maze. It had been a dark, humid labyrinth filled with insects, boiling chemical pools and an overworked populace ruled by a cult leader. Less than a month after contact, Federal forces had descended into the tunnels, intent upon liberating the common people from their Loviatar overlord. Federalists had anticipated a brief conflict fought remotely via synthetic drones. But the dark, magnetically charged tunnels that made up the Maze had disrupted Federalist equipment and communications. The intense gravity rendered projectile weapons useless. Soon fighting degenerated Just the precariousness of the station itself lent a kind of hardness to the people who called it home. Sisu Station whipped around the edge of an artificial black hole—a failed first attempt at igniting a synthetic star like Yuanxi. The citizens of all three sectors: the Maze, the Arc and the Drift shared a history of oppression, warfare and famine. Many people had endured hard times and survived in ways that didn’t bear scrutiny. Most didn’t want more trouble, but they’d hit hard if they felt disrespected.”
So during the war Lake had helped the Federalists and betrayed his former Boss. Now he is thinking that his past has come back back to bite him, and he goes to Maze to find some answers.
There is also a romance, but please note that while the romance is important, it is clearly a secondary storyline. Once again, I am not complaining – but if you want a lot of romance in your stories please it may not be for you. However, secondary or not, I thought the chemistry between the guys was strong, and it was a wise choice in a shorter story to write about a couple who had already been in love with each other for a long time.
You see, Lake and Aguillar had worked together in the police force for five years. Lake propositioned Aguillar, but Aguillar was married then and turned him down. Today Aguillar is no longer married, but they can’t spend time sorting out their non-relationship because Lake is too busy trying to figure out who killed Holly Ryan and who is trying to frame him and why. Eventually they do come together, but it takes time. I thought it was wonderful to read how the author lets us know how much these two want to be together without spending pages and pages on love talk.
Based on the blurb it should be clear that there are themes about prejudice and intolerance in the book. How successful were these themes in the execution? For me they were successful enough, but you guys decide.
What did not work for me was the resolution for the secondary villain; it just was not believable or satisfactory to me.