NEVER judge a book by its cover. That’s what they say. Just as well I didn’t or I might have missed out on The Cold Between, the cracking debut novel from Elizabeth Bonesteel - and that’s not a pen-name.
Bonesteel deals in science-fiction and there is nothing I enjoy more than a well written tale set among the stars. Trouble is, I can rarely find one that really grabs my attention.
There’s lots of sci-fi out there, much of it predictable or just downright bad. Push the bounds of reality too far and it’s hard to suspend disbelief, not far enough and, well, mundane tales have never been a winner.
Thankfully, the ambiguously titled The Cold Between (A Central Corps Novel) is a riveting murder mystery, set against the vast backdrop of space, the final fronti... no, I’ll stop there, although there are some obvious Star Trek influences throughout.
‘When her crewmate Danny is murdered on the colony world of Volhynia, Central Corps 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?
While retracing Danny’s last hours, they discover his death may be tied to a mystery from the past - the destruction of a Central Corps starship at a wormhole near Volhynia.
‘For 25 years, Central Gov has been lying about the tragedy, even willing to go to war with the outlaw tribe 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.’
Got you gripped yet?
A real page-turner, The Cold Between happily bounces between the planet Volhynia, Central Corps starship Galileo, and the mysterious wormhole, with jaunts to unexpected worlds and rival carriers along the way.
Bonesteel, who thanks to a family connection to the space programme has been reading science fiction since she was a kid, brings these environments to life with a light and intricate touch. Her storytelling is multilayered and boasts a cinematic quality.
Her characters, too, are far more rounded than the one-dimensional creations that so often populate the worlds of sci-fi and Cmdr Shaw is a heroine of the times, her relationships with those around her complex and integral to the plot.
Described as a ‘novel of adventure, romance and interplanetary intrigue’, there is indeed a love story element (or two) in the mix, but as long as you can get past an over-written slobbery kiss near the start, those relationships fuel rather than impinge on the action.
Bonesteel understands pacing too, and it’s easy to see how this action-packed adventure might transfer to the big screen, in fact, I’ll be surprised if the rights have not already been optioned. If they haven’t, Paramount should grab them, now.
A second book in the series is already on the way, I’m glad to hear - look forward to reading it.
And while I didn’t quite judge The Cold Between by its cover, it was, ironically, that slightly pedestrian image that nevertheless caused me to open the book and start reading.
There was something comfortingly familiar while strangely alien about it. A bit like the adventure that unfolded.
Now to await the return of Central Corps in book two.
Published by Harper Voyager, £9.99 / ebook £6.99