The Disappeared

The Disappeared
by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
ROC 2002 mass market paperback
first in the Retrieval Artist series.

In this first of her series of Retrieval Artist novels, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has written solid – and very entertaining blend – of mystery and science fiction: a science fiction police procedural. The author gives us interesting, three-dimensional characters doing their jobs as cops who must also cope with the concepts of law and justice in the human world and between humans and other species. I know that makes the books sound a little like legal stuff, but really I’d categorize them as a melding of Ed McBain and Arthur C. Clarke (think 87th Precinct meets Sands of Mars). The cover art by Greg Bridges is appealing and shows a general moon scene, though not one specific to the novel, as well as a badge of the Moon Sector Police.

Overview – In an unspecified future, Humanity has colonized the stars, encountering several alien races in the process. Each race has its own set of laws and its own idea of justice. Since trade is of vital importance to Earth and is extremely lucrative, treaties – called contracts – have been made with other races that allow them to use their own justice on humans who violate their laws on alien soil. If an appeal to the Multicultural Courts is denied, the aggrieved species is allowed to proceed as their laws dictate. Humans can be sent to “work camps”, maimed, executed, deprived of their property and even their children with impunity. Though few like it, for the most part the politicians and corporations have convinced people that it’s necessary for progress. Besides, the humans involved are criminals, right?

There is one way out for these guilty persons: quasi-legal disappearance services have sprung up to hide them and provide new lives to those able and willing to pay.

Plot – Newly promoted detective Miles Flint and his senior partner, Noelle DeRicci, a veteran on the force, have three cases of intergalactic justice on their hands. One: a successful woman attorney on the run must make an emergency landing on moon base, but there are holes in her story… Two: aliens are found in possession of two children for whom they do not have proper authorization. Is it kidnapping, or just a paperwork glitch? The aliens don’t care much for human red tape… Three: a space yacht has drifted into Moon space, three dead humans on board, apparently victims of an alien vengeance killing. All three cases are opened within two days, and all are assigned to Flint and DeRicci .

As Flint delves into the cases, he discovers that all involved intergalactic justice disputes and the use, sometimes years earlier, of a Disappearance Service to avoid other-world authorities . Flint and DeRicci are on their own to solve the crimes and mediate the intergalactic jurisdictional disputes. Their superiors don’t want to get involved in the cases while demanding a fast conclusion in order to avoid an “intergalactic incident”.

The writing here is very good, the plot intriguing, the world building top notch. Rusch is an experienced writer in several genres and melds two of them very successfully. There is a nice balance of action and dialogue, there’s lots going on to keep the reader turning the pages. I expected this book to be good, but it far exceeded my expectations. I’m eager to read the next installment in the series. I just wish I could!

You see, there’s a problem, a BIG one: the publisher, ROC, is not keeping these books in print. It doesn’t make sense!  New books in the series continue to be published, yet ROC isn’t keeping the earlier volumes in print? Have I missed something? Aren’t publishers in the business of selling books? Come on, ROC, put the first six entries in this excellent series back on the shelf! At the very least, give us a pair of omnibus volumes: 1-3 and 4-6 of the books.

If you haven’t read this and the other books in the series, you’ll be hard pressed to find copies. But you can do one thing: you can tell ROC – and it’s parent company Penguin – to get the early books in the series back in print. Here’s the link: go to THIS PAGE and then go through either the e-commerce listing or the book ordering listing. Tell ’em you want ALL the Retrieval Artist books in print. Mass market, trade paper, an omnibus volume, anything would be good. Maybe, just maybe, someone will listen. I know, it’ sound like a lot of work, but it’s not. These are terrific science fiction novels. They are terrific mystery novels. Combined. That combination, done really well, doesn’t come along very often, does it? Nope. So it’s worth the effort.

Here is the series so far:

  1. The Disappeared (2002)
  2. Extremes (2003)
  3. Consequences (2004)
  4. Buried Deep (2005)
  5. Paloma (2006)
  6. Recovery Man (2007)
  7. Duplicate Effort (2009)

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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15 Responses to The Disappeared

  1. George Kelley says:

    I have seen these books from time to time, but neglected to pick them up. Oops! Now I’ll have to search for them. Publishers seem to be printing a fixed number of copies and when they’re sold, that’s it, Rick.

  2. Richard says:

    George, these books are really good. Take the time to follow the link and make the appeal, if you would. Also, if you find anyplace that has the 2nd, 3rd, 4th NEW let me know ASAP, okay?

  3. Bill Crider says:

    I’ve read the first one and own the second one, but Roc (besides not keeping the books in print) doesn’t really get great distribution. I haven’t seen any after the first one. I’ll look more carefully.

    All that aside, Rusch is an amazingly prolific writer, with stories and novels in several genres all over the place. Everything I’ve read has been good.

  4. Richard says:

    I have – just barely – found the early books in the series at used sellers. Most of them are in the mail. It’s not that often I get this pumped about a series, but I really, really liked that first book and Rosch has a great reputation as a writer.

  5. Familiar with her work as an editor, but not as a novelist. Will certainly take a look. Appeciate the heads up and will look at the series.


  6. Jeff Meyerson says:

    Sounds really good. Of course I hadn’t heard of them before.

    I’ve read some of her “Kris Nelscot” mysteries and some short stories but will have to search these out.

    Thanks for the review.

  7. Jeff Meyerson says:

    OK, Rick, you sold me. I was able to get #3-4-5-6 from the paperback exchange.

  8. Richard says:

    Jeff – it seems # 2 is the hardest one to find.

  9. Jeff Meyerson says:

    $16.50 + for an ex-lib copy? I’d say you’re right.

  10. Richard says:

    I bit the bullet and bought the ones I could find new, then go the other on PaperBackSwap. I sure do hope they’re as good the The Disappeared!

  11. Patti Abbott says:

    Isn’t is discouraging to see how quickly some books disappear now?

  12. Richard says:

    Yes, it surely is, and it doesn’t serve the reader or the writer that it is so.

  13. Carl V. says:

    That is very strange that a book that is not very old is out of print already, especially given the fact that they are still publishing titles in the series. How do they expect to sell the newer titles if readers cannot go back and get caught up? At the very least you’d think they would have some kind of print to order option or put them online for free as a method of hooking readers into buying the newer books.

    I personally look forward to spending more time with this author now that I’ve gotten a taste.

  14. Richard says:

    Yes, I said it in the review. I’m told ROC isn’t too good about backlist or distribution, but as you say, you’d think they would want the older books in print. You’ll notice DIVING INTO THE WRECK is published by Pyr, not ROC. I found all the books int he series, but I had to pay a silly amunt for a couple of them, one of which, when it came, was a spine-cracked, cover bent, corner-folded, pages ruffled mess. But it was the cheapest by a goodly margin, and it’s readable.

    Hopefully someone will pick up the rights to the series and put out an omnibus (I guess I said that in the review too.

  15. Carl V. says:

    Hey, some things just bear repeating! 🙂

    Perhaps as she increases in popularity (which it at least appears is happening), another company, like Pyr, will decide to pick up the rights and either reprint the books individually or do the ombnibus treatment.

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