This is first in the Jani Kilian sci-fi series.

This was a rather enjoyable surprise. First, Jani is in her forties. Second, she suffers from back pain and stomach problems so she seems more, well, human than most heroes.

Captain Jani Kilian is a woman on the run. She has been hiding in the furthest planets from the nexus of the galactic Commonwealth. Years ago, she was involved in the try out for humans moving in to one of the cities of the alien idomeni. While the idomeni look very much like humans, their culture and behavior is quite different. The idomeni desire order above all and they consider lying abhorrent. They consider humans to be both chaotic and deceitful but where persuaded into trying co-existence. Unfortunately, the try out ended in a blood-bath and all of the humans involved are thought to be dead. Jani is the last of them and she is still wanted for multiple counts of murder by both humans and the idomeni.

Even though the try out was a failure, currently some humans and idomeni do live in the same cities but in different parts of the cities and their relations as strained at best.

Jani had been hiding successfully for many years but her time is slowly running out. She was very seriously injured in the fighting in the idomeni city and her left arm and leg had to be replaced with synthetics. The synthetics are almost numb and she has developed a limp and back pains because of the false leg. Also, her brain has been augmented for survival and human brains haven’t been designed to withstand that. Usually, an augmented person has to go through check ups every couple of months and a mental purging annually. Jani has started to develop hallucinations about her dead underlings and sometimes her augments don’t kick in when they should.

Because she has to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice and be on guard against attempts to capture her, she has to work for low pay and can’t really develop friendships.

Evan van Reuter, Jani’s former lover and now the Interior Minister of the Commonwealth, has managed to track her down and is offering a job for her. Evan’s wife died three years ago and there are still persistent rumors that Evan himself was behind it. Evan wants to hire Jani in her role as a documents technician to go through the files and to clear his name. At the same time he tries to woo her back him. Jani isn’t too thrilled about either of the prospects but agrees reluctantly to look into Evan’s wife’s death. Unfortunately, that means going back to the very heart of the Commonwealth, Earth, and right under the very nose of the police forces looking for her.

When Jani finds out that her old idomeni teacher is the idomeni ambassador to Earth, she almost changes her mind. But it’s too late: she has already been introduced to Evan’s chief aides and a very nosy butler who turns out to be a spy. Jani enjoys foiling his attempts to get information from her during the trip. Later she encounters him in a very unexpected place.

When they come to Earth, Jani finds out that nothing about the job is easy. There are more secrets than she ever would have believed connected to the death. She also has to confront her bloody past and what she had to do in the idomeni planet. And to make things worse, there’s a virulent disease spreading around the colonies and Jani’s stomach has been upset for some weeks now.

The idomeni ambassador is the second-point-of-view character and he has his own designs about Jani’s future.

The book is very fast paced. I had some trouble with how quickly people started to trust Jani and agree to do even illegal jobs for her. Then again these people weren’t exactly the most law-abiding people around in the first place.

The cultures in the book have been well done. There’s the elitist Earth who is trying to control the much more numerous colonies on other planets while looking down on them. The idomeni are disturbed by the human’s chaoticness and only the charismatic influence of Jani’s former mentor can convince the idomeni to continue to keep in touch with the humans at all. And yet even he is a former criminal and apparently many idomeni consider him to be tainted by the humans. I’d love to see more of the cultures involved.

I was also intrigued by some of the technology. For example, the document technicians have scanpacks which are used to verify the validity of the documents. The packs are made from the technicians own brain cells.

After a couple of chapters I wasn’t even bothered anymore by the cognitive dissonance of Jani’s name: Jani is a male Finnish name and her nick name Jan is a Swedish/Finnish male name.