Review: The Cold Between (Central Corps #1) – Elizabeth Bonesteel

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Summary:

Deep in the stars, a young officer and her lover are plunged into a murder mystery and a deadly conspiracy in this first entry in a stellar military science-fiction series in the tradition of Lois McMaster Bujold.

When her crewmate, Danny, is murdered on the colony of Volhynia, Central Corps chief engineer, Commander Elena Shaw, is shocked to learn the main suspect is her lover, Treiko Zajec. She knows Trey is innocent—he was with her when Danny was killed. So who is the real killer and why are the cops framing an innocent man?

Retracing Danny’s last hours, they discover that his death may be tied to a mystery from the past: the explosion of a Central Corps starship at a wormhole near Volhynia. For twenty-five years, the Central Gov has been lying about the tragedy, even willing to go to war with the outlaw PSI to protect their secrets.

With the authorities closing in, Elena and Trey head to the wormhole, certain they’ll find answers on the other side. But the truth that awaits them is far more terrifying than they ever imagined . . . a conspiracy deep within Central Gov that threatens all of human civilization throughout the inhabited reaches of the galaxy—and beyond.

Review:

Oh The Cold Between, how much I wanted to love you. You’re a military sci-fi novel written by a woman that contains several strong and likable female characters: there just aren’t enough of you out on the shelves these days. So I stuck with you. I kept going and kept going just waiting for that moment when it would all click together for me and somehow it never quite happened, which is just so disappointing.

Trying to peg the why of it, however, has been difficult.

Pacing may be an issue: the book touts the mystery surrounding the tragedy that happened twenty-five years ago; and yet we don’t really learn what happened until 80% of the way in. So we have an extremely slow build-up, which then forces a quick resolution that ultimately feels anti-climatic because it all happens so fast. The revelation surrounding the mystery doesn’t really aid things either: it’s not exactly obvious, but it doesn’t feel as revelatory as it should either especially since it’s a conspiracy 25 years in the making.

The antagonists may be another issue: there are two, and both feel one note. One is a sadist who goes fully as far as threatening to rape our protagonist – both while she’s alive, and promising to continue to do so after she’s died. The other is power hungry, or maybe power mad, and he seemingly has no other speed so he’s either angry that he’s getting shut down, or probably abusing the power that he does have. Nuance would have gone a long way for both characters here. I know that Bonesteel was trying to make a point about corruption and unchecked power, but those kind of messages tend to get muddled when the bad guys are so flat.

Finally, I’m not sure that I quite bought into the relationship between Elena and Trey. While I appreciate her sense of justice in not wanting to leave him behind, Bonesteel wrote them as if they’d been together or known each other for quite some time – at one point Trey even tells another character something to the effect that he doesn’t know Elena at all. But you know what, neither does Trey. They had a one night stand. Even by the time you factor in the time spent in space and running and what not, they’ve known each other for what, a week? Maybe two absolute tops? He doesn’t know her that well either, and so when he’s telling her he loves her, it’s kind of suspect. The book does focus a lot on that relationship (and relationships in general), so if it doesn’t work for you, it hurts the book as a whole.

So yeah. Like I said. I wanted to love this book and I just couldn’t and that’s just such a shame.

Verdict: A weak Borrow it – There is some good stuff here, and I think that if you like the relationship aspects more than I did, you’ll get some good enjoyment out of it.

Available: March 8

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