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Kristine Kathryn Rusch's novella The Retrival Artist was an interesting story, with well thought out characters and situations. So, when I saw a novel in the same universe, in the shape of The Disappeared it quickly found a place on my bookcase.

The Disappeared is a mystery, set in a world where humanity has gone to the stars, and discovered how difficult it is to develop relationships with other races - especially when their ideas of justice and punishment differ radically from our own. It's a situation that has led to development of new solutions, in the shape of interworld tribunals and an acceptance of the dictum "when in Rome". Of course there are loopholes, in the shape of disappearance agencies that will give an inadvertant transgressor a completely new identity and life.

On the moon, the police find themselves with three new cases - one an obvious alien revenge killing with no link between the victims and the alien race, one a child collection by another group of aliens with what appears to be an invalid warrant, and the third a woman apparently on the run from another group of aliens, and with a story that just doesn't quite fit. There's a link between these crimes, and it leads to a question of trust and responsibility that will cause a cop to question his values and his role in society.

Unfortunately for Rusch the novel fails to excite. Her colonised moon is just another American city with the serial numbers filed off, and her aliens are too human to have such different moralities. The same is true of the characters, with the police straight out of NYPD Blue and the running disappeared just too lucky for their own good. If things have changed as much as she says, then why does everything feel like a standard police procedural with added space ships. There's a failure of imagination here, with little to encourage the reader past the first hundred pages or so...

All in all, The Disappeared is a promising idea, let down by poor execution and juvenile characterisation and a cardboard world.