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The Cause of Death: BSI Starside    by Roger MacBride Allen order for
Cause of Death
by Roger MacBride Allen
Order:  USA  Can
Spectra, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

When agents Jamie Mendez and Hannah Wolfson of the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI) embark upon their new interstellar investigation, they have no way of knowing what they're heading into. The message received by BSI headquarters was garbled and barely intelligible. Still, it seemed relatively straightforward: go to the planet of Requar and pick up a human prisoner captured by the Pavlat race.

The BSI agents have seen cases like this one before. No alien species wants to deal with a 'xeno-prisoner', especially when sending him back home would alleviate the problems of figuring out what to feed him, how to treat his medical problems, and whether a legal complaint is valid. But if the task itself is so simple, why is everyone on Pavlat so intent on killing the BSI agents before they can even figure out what their mission really is?

An intriguing blend of space opera and adventure thriller, BSI Starside: The Cause of Death also manages to incorporate a solid dose of political intrigue into its complex plot. The world building is intense, and at times the story bogs down in descriptive detail as the author attempts to differentiate between a number of alien species and their diverse cultures. Still, the story line is intriguing and makes up for the sluggish pace.

The satisfying subplots involving political machinations on Requar add depth to the main plot. The players involved are as well-developed as any politician on our own planet. From the beginning, they make it clear that hunger for power and advancement isn't simply a human trait. Overall, BSI Starside: The Cause of Death offers a complex plot with plenty of intrigue woven throughout. SF fans will be satisfied with this first novel in the BSI Starside series.

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