True Blood is romantic science fiction set amongst space journeys, political maneuverings between empires and diplomacy with a strong plot thread involving
the investigation of a series of murders. Our heroine is Danna MacFadyen, a diplomat from Earth who has a strange ability to read emotions from objects that people have owned. Because of this skill, she is tasked to help investigate whether an explosion on a spaceship
that killed 46 people was an accident or murder. Although unable to read very much from the articles on the spaceship, she certainly takes note of her fellow investigator, Cullon Gavriel, an Enforcer (scary soldier/assassin/spy) from the planet Korcia. Cullon informs her that there is more to the deaths on the spaceship than was originally thought, as included among the dead was a Korcian True Blood, the True Bloods being the aristocracy of Korcia (and rather thin on the ground). Equally, this man's death wasn't the first unexpected True Blood death; there have been two others. Cullon is investigating the deaths knowing that he, too, is quite possibly a target as a True Blood.
The story moves through many different locations with the theme of Danna's ability to read objects allowing routes on the trail after the killer to come to light. Hanging out with a dishy soldier-type also has its expected results, and Danna and Cullon
become lovers, knowing that this can probably only be in the short-term as Korcians don't generally like people from Earth, and Cullon's
life as Enforcer doesn't mesh well with that of a diplomat. They do seem to make the most of opportunities to go to bed with each other - this really seems to be the sum total of the
"romance" in this book. I actually found there was little romance, little suspense in their love life, it wasn't a case of "Will they/won't they?" but "they will, but when will they get a convenient opportunity?" If you like your romance more multi-layered and deep, this story isn't going to suit you entirely.
However, this book is far more than the romance. The story of the search for the person killing the True Bloods is an interesting one with twists and turns, varied locations, confusion, emotion and lots of potential baddies. I liked the way that
the characters must operate on slender evidence a lot of the time, having to go with gut instinct rather than hard facts. I didn't like the fact that some difficulties
are rather glossed over - for example, Cullon magically knows who to bribe and how much in some situations so that he is able to break into the safe of an important man and take something from it.
This seems amazingly unlikely to me, but necessary for the plot. I suppose Cullon is partly James Bond
- he's able to do things ordinary mortals can't, but it does require the
suspension of disbelief a few times. The action denouement is also rather a damp squib; for a group of seasoned warriors, it all seems to be rather basic.
The lack of a really gripping storyline is a disappointment in some places. The story moves along fairly quickly, and we learn about the different worlds
the characters visit, but it is never difficult to put the book down and do
something else. There seems to be a lack of real emotion and engagement with the story at a deeper level than just an airport read. There
are some holes in the information (Terrans and Korcians are different species, but they don't seem to have any problems connecting sexually!) and other information
is glossed over (such as Cullon's fence-mending with his father), but these aren't major niggles in an otherwise well-written and engaging story. The last chapter sets us up for the next book in the series, and I am sure it, too, will be a reasonable read.