Nearly ten thousand years in the future people are still making bad decisions about what to buy on the Internet.
Antiquities dealer and well-known historical detective Alex Benedict purchases a stone tablet covered with inscriptions in an unknown language. When he sends his long-time assistant Chase Kolpath to pick it up, she runs into a few problems. As Alex and Chase make repeated attempts to find the artifact, they encounter false leads, attempts on their lives, and the terrified silence of those keeping a thirty-year-old secret. Could Sunset Tuttle, the deceased owner of the tablet, succeeded in his lifelong search for a new alien civilization? If so, why would he keep it quiet...?
This latest Benedict/Kolpath adventure is a good read. There is a mystery to solve, a few clues, a few more false clues, and an end-of-the-book resolution to most of the story's questions. Fans of this series get to see interesting developments in Alex's and Chase's personal lives. And there is the trademark skimmer-in-trouble-over-water scene.
There is the same odd, patchwork view of civilization as in the other books of this series. We see lots of business- and neighborhood-level scenes, and a few descriptions of planetary cultures, but not much at the level of cities or regions. It is as though there is no longer cultural differentiation at this level. Maybe this is intentional, meant to be the result of planet-wide communications and low-cost, high-speed travel. But it feels odd. Consistent, but odd.
The book is a must-read for McDevitt fans. Readers new to this author, or to the Alex Benedict series, should start with A Talent For War