Today's first book review is The Third Lynx by Timothy Zahn.
This is the sequel to Night Train to Rigel, and draws its characters and situation directly from that book without a whole lot of explanation; I think it would be quite confusing to read it by itself. Sadly, it doesn't add much new world-building to the first book; there is tremendous running around, shouting, and blowing things up, but not all that much real story. Readable, moderately entertaining, but no more. And after finishing it just last night, I can't really keep the details of the story straight. 5 out of 10.
**** PLOT SUMMARY -- MASSIVE SPOILERS ****
... or at least as massive as I can manage. It didn't stick well in my mind.
Compton and Bayta are riding the Quadrail, fresh from their recent adventure where they destroyed the Modhri's home colony, when a man is murdered in the next compartment and manages to croak out something unintelligible to Compton as he dies about "the third lynx" and "Daniel Mice". Morse, a EuroUnion Security Services agent on the train, tries to take over the investigation and suspects Compton. Compton rubs Morse's nose in the fact that Morse has no authority to arrest him on the Quadrail, and their relationship gets off to a bad start that only gets a lot worse as the plot thickens. They learn that the deceased is actually Arthur Künstler, one of Earth's richest men and an eccentric art collector. They also learn that the third lynx is one of an enigmatic set of ancient sculptures from a civilization called the Nemuti; only 3 each of the abstract forms, called Hawk, Viper, and Lynx have been discovered. For some reason, they're moderately prized as objets d'art. And they've been mysteriously disappearing of late; in fact, this Lynx is the only one not known to have been stolen lately. The unfortunate Künstler had owned it, and had recently been the target of a theft, but his Lynx had already disappeared. Compton manages to figure out that a Daniel Stafford, a relative of Künstler, is traveling in the same general direction and, after some twists and turns, figures out that he's carrying the Lynx. He sneaks into Stafford's compartment and physically observes the Lynx, which by some alien magic doesn't show up on any sensor scan. He also figures out that the Modhri is actively pursuing it. For some reason that never really makes sense, the Modhri's walkers always treat Compton with kid gloves, even though the mortal hatred is clear, and they interact personally many times through the story. To make things more fun, the Chahwyn decide that Compton has attracted the attention of too many important people and fire him as their agent against the Modhri, revoking his unlimited first-class Quadrail pass, just to put some more pressure on. They latch onto Stafford's girlfriend as they try to catch up with Stafford again, and they briefly feel attracted to each other, having one kiss that gets them into even hotter water with Morse and almost destroys Bayta's trust in Compton (this despite the fact that there was only a faint hint that Bayta and Compton had a romantic relationship to threaten). The only person Compton seems to be able to fully trust is the ever resourceful Bellido Korak Fayr, who operates independently but manages to hook up with them at the right times. They track down Daniel and manage to convince him to join their struggle, learning in the process that the Viper sculptures can explode -- because the one that had been on the planet they're on did so, making a mess of the art gallery. They use the invisibility properties of the Lynx to hide it inside a fake art object, and lead the crazy plot to the Nemuti world the sculptures came from, where the Modhri has managed to be secretly take over the archaeological dig and is feverishly looking for more pieces. Compton has somehow pieced together that the three artifacts combine to form a single weapon. Fortunately, by the time he's gotten this far, he's managed to get the Chahwyn to rehire him and even bludgeoned them into giving him a neuro weapon he can carry on the Quadrail. Somehow Compton has managed to put together clues that didn't seem to be there to figure out that the Nemuti weapon is telepathically triggered, and much more importantly, that it (or rather, its Viper power source) goes off spontaneously when a telepath experiences too much pain in its presence, so as the whole encampment of Modhri walkers is about to take them over, he uses his Chahwyn weapon to make Modhri hurt and the buried Vipers start exploding. This, combined with Fayr appearing right on time, manages to be enough to let Compton and crew escape. Only after they leave does he reveal that the Ten Mesas site of the excavation is much more significant than a weapons dump; the mesas themselves are buried warships from the previous galactic civilization. And only after they've gone their separate ways does Compton reveal that he's sure that Morse -- who finally seemed to have been convinced of Compton's bona fides and to grudgingly accept him -- is really a deep-cover Modhri walker; the reason he allowed the Modhri to lose the Nemuti weapon is that he saw a Chahwyn. He didn't see enough to understand that the Chahwyn control the Quadrail, much less that the Quadrail is itself an elaborate fraud, but we end the book reminded that the safety of the galaxy still depends on a tenuous house of cards of security, and the Modhri, though defeated again, is still to be worried about.
But I'm not sure I'll bother to keep reading the series and see how it comes out.