Infinity Beach
by Jack McDevitt
Review by Ann Cecil

Infinity Beach is Jack McDevitt doing his own specialty: the tale within a mystery tale that unfolds and unfolds to reveal new and more amazing intellectual challenges. And, as in all his work, the characters are people that fascinate, in their depth and complexity, vivid and believable - even when they're dead.

This story features a female lead, Dr. Kim Brandywine, who works on Beacon, one of the last of the SETI projects. Humanity, now quite a ways out into space, is becoming frustrated at the lack of other sentient life. Beacon is a typically last-ditch project; they're going to blow up 3 stars, as a kind of really loud signal to anyone else out there (good or bad) to please come visit.

Kim has an unusual personal history: she is the younger clone (she thinks of the relationship as sister) of an explorer, who disappeared years ago, very mysteriously, after a voyage out. A call from an old acquaintance, who gives her private information indicating that Something Happened on the voyage sets her on a quest for the truth.

In Kim's case, the truth is very hard to find, and finding it has a very high personal cost. As with most of McDevitt's leads, Kim forges on, fueled by a mix of motives, part anger at the cover-up she finds, part bitterness over the loss of her clone-sister, and part sheer intellectual curiosity.

Part of the fun of reading the book is the delicious neatness with which the mystery is unravelled, the twists and turns of the plot, and the dawning understanding the reader shares with Kim as the truth is revealed. So I won't spoil it for you. Go buy your own copy. But be warned: I stayed up until 3 am, telling myself 'just one more page' until I'd read it all.

So start it on a weekend. A long weekend.

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