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Kirkus ReviewsField agent Nathaniel Firstborn Whaler of Accord's Ecolitan Institute, having just rescued colleague Sylvia Ferro-Maine from the Earth Empire, is ordered to produce a report detailing the ecological development and economic infrastructure of the terraformed colony world Artos. But hot, barren Artos lies within the Three System Bulge, a strategically important region over which the galaxy's major powers are squabbling. To complicate Nathaniel's mission, some factions want the report published, others don't; all the various empires have sent spies to scrutinize his every move; and, being a loner, he must learn to work in tandem with Sylvia. Minutes after they arrive on Artos, the Ecolitans' car explodes, killing the driver; they narrowly escape an explosion at a fuel- processing plant; then their plane crashes in the desert. Finally, having prepared their report, they leave for New Avalon—but their spaceship's been sabotaged, too! So Nathaniel and Sylvia must figure out who's responsible, and try to stop a galactic war from breaking out.
An overcomplicated but mostly agreeable potboiler from the talented and versatile Modesitt (The Soprano Sorceress, 1997, etc.).