The Devil's Eye: An Alex Benedict Novel
by Jack McDevitt
Cover Artist: John Harris
Review by Carolyn Frank
Ace Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441016358
Date: 04 November 2008 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Salud Afar is a planet located so far outside the galaxy that when one looks out at the night sky only a single star is visible, Callistra or The Devil's Eye. Only a few other planets and some asteroids survive in this system on the distant edge of human-dominated space at a time many millennia in our future. When Alex Benedict, interstellar antiquities dealer, gets a delayed message pleading for help from best-selling author Vicki Greene, who has now disappeared, he sets out to uncover the mystery. Since the message was accompanied by two million deposited to the account of his business, Rainbow Enterprises, Alex is determined to find her and the reason for her outcry. Chase Kolpath, interstellar pilot and business partner to Alex, is also intrigued. As the last place Vicki is known to have visited is Salud Afar, they head there to investigate.
The tale is told from the perspective of Chase, who plays the central role throughout, as she is the one with both the starship piloting capabilities and the one outside of the center of attention who gets to wander afield. From her earlier positive-although-limited experiences with the other major species in tour galaxy, the Ashiyyur -- large vaguely humanoid predators that are telepathic with limited vocal abilities, Chase is clearly the right person in the right place at the right time.
Vicki's area of specialization is horror tales, and very appropriately, quotes from her various books are used at the start of each chapter. To learn more about Vicki, Alex reads her books and Chase researches her background. Once on Salud Afar, they follow Vicki's increasingly hazy tour of the planet, attempting to learn what she had learned. This takes them from one site of dubious tales to the next, but provides an entertaining travelogue and rationale as to why they should care about the folks who live there.
The story is a spiraling set of mysteries and political complexities; once Alex and Chase find the answer to one question, such as what happened with Vicki, they are in the midst of the next. The action is pervasive, although limited to human-based fights with malevolent people who want to keep everything under wraps and with nasty sea-based animal predators. All starship based hostilities take place essentially off-stage, although the reported body count keeps mounting. The scientific mystery is understandable enough although the proposed solution strains credulity. The intensity is sustained through the political arena, both on Salud Afar, and eventually involving the entire galaxy.
This book continues the series featuring Alex and Chase: A Talent for War, Polaris, and Seeker (winner of the 2006 Nebula award for Best Novel). Although it is not necessary to have read any of the prior books in order to enjoy this one, after delighting in The Devil's Eye, the reader should make a concerted effort to seek them out in order to spend a lot more time in this intriguing universe.