Sunday, August 7, 2011
The Space Station Murders by A. M. Roelke
An ex-cop on a space station struggles to overcome alcoholism and the death of his partner. Against his better judgment, he befriends a station newbie, and the two begin to investigate the murder of their fellow homeless space station residents.
Ahead, a fight.
A long, loping run took Herbert to the fracas. Three thugs—the Jensen brothers—wailing on a smaller guy, curly hair. He was giving as good as he got, but with three to one, the odds were obvious.
Herb slammed a fist into the eldest Jensen’s ribs, hooked a leg around his, and pulled him down. Trod over him and tackled the next guy in the pack, the biggest Jensen, leaving Curly with only one opponent. Curly, breathing hard, trying not to double over, blew on his fists, rocked side to side, and clocked his opponent a left hook.
Herb smashed the giant’s face a few times, dodged the return blows; he was too fast for the giant’s fists, so the giant lunged forward to tackle him. He sidestepped and caught the guy from behind, jumping on his back. They both toppled to the floor. By the time he’d gotten loose, the oldest Jensen was getting up, the one Curly had been fighting was down, and both Curly and his opponent had a busted lip.
“Molloy,” growled the biggest Jensen, picking up a pipe hidden beneath the park bench and smacking it into his palm. He advanced on Herb, murder in his eyes.
“Time to go, kid,” said Herb Molloy, voice rising. “Street fight looking to turn into a homicide fest.”
The kid kicked the approaching thug in the back of his knees and took off running, scuffed sneaker soles flashing behind him. He ran all out, the way he’d fought; Herb was behind him the whole way, even when he put on a burst of speed.
They stopped three streets down, leaned against a shop wall (Spaceship Repairs), and panted. “Thanks,” said the kid, doubled over, holding his side. He spat phlegm in the alley, stood up, and offered his hand.
Herb looked at it a second, took it. Most street folks didn’t offer to shake hands.
“Zack Ives,” said the kid.
It was the writing style in the excerpt that caught my eye. It reminded me of my favorite science fiction author, Robert A. Heinlein. After reading it, I just had to buy the book and I was not disappointed. Herb Molloy, the burned-out, alcoholic cop who befriends newbie Zack Ives and shows him the ropes among the homeless on the space station reminded me of a few of the men in some of Heinlein’s shorter works—down and out curmudgeons who claim it only pays to watch your own back, but they still have a core of ethics that won’t let them ignore a situation of three against one, or allow people to go hungry or let themselves live on charity when they can work at something, anything. They are, to quote Heinlein, “too stinkin’ proud.” Ives is cut from the same cloth and somehow, Molloy recognizes that in him. Nor is either man willing to allow their fellow homeless to continue to be killed while they’re breathing and able to do something about it. Their investigation will keep you guessing until the very end of the book.
It is sixty-nine pages of good sci-fi mystery and I think the Old Man would be proud.