Review of THE THIRD LYNX by Timothy Zahn
Tor, October 2007
Former spy Frank Compton is fighting a lonely battle against a life form (the Modhri) who can create a colony of himself in virtually any living thing, either influencing or taking over the entire life form. Fortunately, he's got Bayta, an assistant who is not only capable, but who can telepathically commuicate to the spiders who run the train system that communicates the multiple space-traveling civilizations--and who can make sure he travels first class. It's when he's traveling first class that another human approaches him with a strange (not to say suspicious) story about an art object. When the man is murdered shortly later, Compton becomes a suspect. But Compton learns that the Modhri is interested in the art objects--and anything the Modhri wants, Compton intends to make sure they don't get.
Being suspected of murder puts a bit of a cramp on Compton's normal abilities--especially when his alien bosses decide he's more of a liability than an asset and fire him. Still, through a combination of fast talking, judicious blackmail, and rash promises, he manages to stay alive and put himself on track of the last of the artworks. He even comes up with a theory of why the Modhri is interested, and it isn't because the Modhri has decided art collecting is more worthwhile than galactic conquest.
Author Timothy Zahn (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Zahn) combines a space-opera style with the hard-boiled detective story in an intriguing adventure. Compton, with his conflicted feelings about Earth and Bayta, makes an interesting character--maybe too smart and sure of himself to be really likable, but interesting. Bayta is a great side-kick, her talents exactly matching what Compton needs.
As with any good detective story, Zahn throws one danger after another, and mixes them up with plenty of twists. As he travels the galaxy in search of rare artworks, Compton needs to outsmart, outfight, and ultimately outmaneuver the Modhri. Early in the novel, there were a few moments where I wanted Zahn to get on with the story, but once he started cranking, he turned out a fully enjoyable read.
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