Alex Benedict is well known to Jack McDevitt fans as a merchant of rare and recently rediscovered artifacts. Since Alex lives far in our future, some of these artifacts can involve lost technology of engaging complexity. Assisted by the lovely, resourceful, skeptical, and multi-talented Chase Kolpath, Alex works through another historical puzzle in this sixth book of the series.
To establish--and perhaps inflate--the value of items in an estate sale, Alex and Chase investigate the mysterious disappearance of the improbably-named physicist Christopher Robin. Robin had himself been investigating the occasional appearances of unidentified starships at seemingly-random locations among the worlds of the Confederacy. Although these sightings have remained unexplained for hundreds of years, they have provoked little lasting curiosity. Of greater concern are the infrequent disappearances of modern starships. This is seen as an unwanted, but acceptable price for travel through the dangerous depths of space.
As Chase and Alex assemble pieces of this puzzle, readers peer over their shoulders and begin guessing at the outcome. We also learn more about Chase's pre-Alex employment, explore a planet hidden for centuries in a dust cloud, and listen to Alex debate his colleagues and critics about the sentience of the artificial intelligences ("Betas") that perform so many of their society's tasks. One cannot help anticipates the role these themes and events will play in future Benedict adventures.
This is an essential and rewarding read for fans of the Alex Benedict series. Although it connects nicely to events of previous books, it can also be enjoyed as a stand-alone story. The time you spend in it will seem short compared to the faster pace of the universe around you.