The Tea Master and the Detective
After a traumatic experience, a self-aware military ship finds a new career brewing chemical cocktails that barely help cover the bills. But when a drug-using scholar hires the mindship to help her locate a corpse to further her work, the curious duo find themselves in the middle of a bizarre murder mystery. And the answer to this mystery leads not only into the hazy past of the scholar but into the traumatic past of the mindship.
The Tea Master and the Detective is a strangely Holmesian addition to de Bodard’s Xuya series, given its acerbic freelance detective and a former military partner wounded in battle, but the pairing works, adding a slowly-growing relationship to the high-concept sci-fi of deep spaces and virtual reality middle-grounds where humans and spaceships can interact.
The mystery itself is layered, requiring patience from readers unfamiliar with the universe at large but still offering enough bread crumbs to make satisfying sense of the circumstances. (Still, I would recommend a cursory familiarity with the Xuya universe before delving into this one.)
That being said, The Tea Master and the Detective is an intriguing glimpse into a unique sci-fi world.
Aliette de Bodard