11th book in the series in the internal chronological order.

Publication year: 2002
Format: Audio
Narrator: Grover Gardner
Running Time: 10 hrs, 54 m

Miles and Ekaterin are enjoying their delayed honeymoon, off-world, when Emperor Gregor’s message diverts them to Graf station. It’s a commercial space station in the Quaddie space. Komarran ships, which have a fleet of Barrayaran warships as escorts, have run into trouble. Apparently, some Barrayaran soldiers have been murdered or arrested, and shots have been exchanged and some people have been injured. Also, the local Barrayaran informant’s report and the report of the fleet commander are different. So, it’s Miles’ duty to hurry to the station and solve the whole thing, diplomatically. Miles has a mystery in his hands but fortunately he’s quite an accomplished detective by now.

When Miles and Ekatarin arrive to Graf station, they find out that one Barrayaran has apparently been murdered and a group of them are in jail for breaking into a quaddie’s quarters, trying to rescue their fellow soldier from the clutching of the said quaddie. Unfortunately for the fleet commander, the soldier they tried to rescue doesn’t what to be rescued at all.

Miles and Ekaterin’s first children are in the uterine replicators and Miles is anxious to return before their due time, which gives him about four weeks to solve the problem. About half of the merchant ships are owned by the Komarran Toscane family. Gregor’s new wife, the Empress, is a Toscane. Then there’s is of course the mutant problem. Barrayarans hate and loath any mutations and until recently children born with an obvious mutation, even something as easily repaired as a hair-lip, were killed. The quaddies are humans who have been genetically engineered to thrive in free fall: they have arms in place of their legs. Some Barrayarans describe them, in an official report, as “horrible spider mutants.”

The book is set in Graf station so most of the characters are new, which I think was a good choice because the previous book, A Civil Campaign, was set in Barrayar with almost all of the familiar cast present. Here we have Miles and Ekaterin, Miles’ bodyguard Roic, and Bel Thorne who is Barrayar’s informant on Graf station… and in a steady relationship with Nicole, the quaddie musician last seen in Labyrinth. Bel is a former mercenary and Miles’ confidante. We also get an interesting cast of quaddie police, Barrayaran military officers, and various others. We also get to see Miles and Ekaterin working together, which was a delight. I love established couples (or triads but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them) as main characters solving problems together. Not enough of them around!

“All sort of men don’t make it home for the births of their children but ‘my mother was out of town on the day I was born so she missed it’, just seems… seems more profound complaint, somehow.”

“I always thought my parents could fix anything. Now it’s my turn. Dear God, how did this happen?”