Review: Malfunction by Nina Croft

Review: Malfunction by Nina CroftMalfunction by Nina Croft
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: mystery, paranormal, science fiction romance
Series: Dark Desires Origins #1
Pages: 320
Published by Entangled: Amara on January 20, 2020
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
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Investigator, Sergeant Logan Farrell, has never been convinced the human race deserves saving. But it looks like he’s got the job anyway.

It’s been five hundred years since we fled the remnants of a dying Earth in search of a new home. Twenty-four ships, each carrying ten thousand Chosen Ones. All sleeping peacefully...until people start dying in cryo.

Malfunction or murder? Hopefully, the former—a serial killer in the fleet would be drastic for morale. But Logan is determined to find the truth. Unfortunately, he’s got a new partner—and he works best alone.

Katia Mendoza, hot-shot homicide detective, has been woken from cryo to assist with the investigation. But is she really interested in solving the case, or does she have her own agenda?

Before he can answer that question, though, they become targets themselves.

Nothing like a few near misses with death to bring a couple together, and Logan finds himself falling for the alluring detective. But he doesn’t know that Katia is hiding a secret.

It’s not only humans who fled the dying Earth.

My Review:

Once upon a time there was a book called Break Out. It takes place in a far distant future – 3050 – in a galaxy far, far away. It’s kind of a heist story, and the first paranormal SFR I ever read. It’s SFR because, well, obviously, 3050 and humanity has managed to get itself off this rock. It’s paranormal because one of the lead characters, the captain of the spacefaring band of mercenaries that the series follows, is Ricardo Sanchez.

Rico was born on Earth in 1452. He became a vampire – yes, you read that right, vampire – during the Spanish Inquisition. A vampire, whether from the Spanish Inquisition or otherwise, is not what you expect to discover on a spaceship.

And yet, when humanity fled Earth, Rico managed to beg, borrow, bribe or steal – mostly bribing and stealing – his way onto one of the sleeper ships heading away from the disaster. And he brought 5,000 or so of his fellow paranormals along with him. Vampires, werewolves, werecats, demons, etc.

Through a bit of timey-wimey time travel bits, we got a few glimpses of Rico’s life before he went space traveling in Break Out and the books that followed. However, while he and his friends talked about their journey to get to the far-flung future, we didn’t get to actually see it.

Now we do. Malfunction is the first projected book in a prequel series to Break Out and its series, which is either titled Blood Hunter or Dark Desires. And if you’re wondering why I’m going through all this background information for a prequel, it’s because my love of Break Out (I gave it an SFR Galaxy Award in 2013.

I was interested in this book because I loved that one. Whether a reader new to the series will have that same reaction is anyone’s guess. I’m not sure.

Because this is not actually Rico’s story – not that I didn’t love seeing him again. Instead, this prequel is an SFR murder mystery – not that there aren’t plenty of paranormal elements in the mix.

This story takes place aboard the good ships of the Trakis expedition – and they are all falling apart. But those malfunctions are mostly what you’d expect after 500 years of continuous operation with no resupply and no hope or home in sight.

The Captain of the Trakis One and Rico on the Trakis Two have each woken an investigator from cryosleep because a recent audit of ships’ systems has turned up a malfunction that is not merely not random. It’s not even likely.

Someone has been running from ship to ship sabotaging cryosleep chambers – including each and every failsafe built in to those chambers to prevent the dozens of deaths by asphyxiation that have occurred.

Trakis One wants their investigator, Sergeant Logan Farrell, to declare the whole thing an unfortunate series of accidental but coincidental malfunctions. He’s not buying what they’re selling, but he’s a good enough soldier to pretend he does.

Rico Sanchez, on Trakis Two, wants his own investigator, Detective Katia Mendoza, to make sure the investigation stays away from the Trakis Two and doesn’t poke its nose into the many, many illegal things that Rico did to get his people onto the ship instead of the people who were supposed to be there.

As Katia is also one of Rico’s illicit people – and a werecat – she’s more than willing to keep the fleet out of their business. But her detective instincts are aroused by the crimes, which are definitely real and definitely crimes and not accidents or malfunctions at all.

That her baser instincts, as well as her emotions, are equally aroused by Sergeant Logan is something that she’ll have to either ignore or let Rico deal with – permanently. One way – or another.

Escape Rating B: I loved the early books in the original series, so I was all in for Malfunction. That being said, Malfunction didn’t feel like it hung together nearly as well as the early books in that series. I enjoyed Malfunction for its look back at the origins of a story I really liked, but I’m not sure that I’d have liked it nearly as much without having already seen the future of this universe and at least one of its characters.

Although the reviews seem to be saying that I’m a bit off-base, and readers new to this world are still loving this book. Your warp speed may vary, of course.

For this reader, it felt like the story existed on three levels. One is the “nostalgia” factor, that I already knew where this universe ended up, so it was fun to see where it began.

The second, and the primary plot of this particular story, is the spacefaring murder mystery. In a strange way, it reminded me of Medusa Uploaded, probably the bit about the mysterious deaths being investigated as well as the class system that has been not just preserved but enshrined in the way that people where chosen for this journey. It also has a bit of Veronica Scott’s Star Cruise/Sectors SF series to it, as that spacefaring SFR series often deals with crime aboard a spaceship. But the tone in Malfunction is dark in the way that Medusa Uploaded is dark.

Third, of course, is the romance between Logan and Katia. They have instant chemistry together, and they both resist it for equally good reasons. Sometimes for the same reason – neither of them has ever fit in and they are afraid to trust themselves emotionally. Of course Katia has another reason for resisting the attraction. She’s not sure how Logan will react once he knows her secret and she’s not sure about becoming emotionally involved with someone that she will probably outlive by centuries.

Unless, of course, the course of this investigation sends them both to “kingdom come” in a ball of fire. After all, someone is committing the crimes that they are investigating, and it becomes almost instantly clear that whoever that someone is they are willing to murder not just dozens but literally thousands of people to cover their crimes.

Or to fuel their need for vengeance. After facing near-death at every turn and always – so far at least – managing to survive together, it’s not any wonder that Katia and Logan decide to grab whatever joy they can in the now – because tomorrow really might never come for either of them.

I, however, certainly hope that there will be more books in the Dark Desires Origins series. It was fun to see Rico and company at an earlier stage of their journey – and the trials and tribulations of watching a new human colony being created while hiding in more-or-less plain sight should be fascinating.

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