This is the third novel in the Probability Broach 'trilogy' (the second was The American Zone, although El Neil wrote that book years later), the continuing story of Win Bear, time-crossed detective. As in every other novel set in his 'North American Confederacy' parallel time-line, Mr. Smith combines the best features of science fiction with the best features of hard-boiled murder mystery, but in his own unique wise-cracking style. It helps to start with The Probability Broach, either the original print version or the graphic novel, but the reader will find, as I did, that The Venus Belt stands on its own.
It's 1999, and Win's detective business takes him, by constant-boost space liner, to the Asteroid Belt to solve a series of mysterious disappearances of women... but wait, in our time-line we're still putzing around trying to get private space travel off the ground. What does the North American Confederacy have that we don't? Actually, it's what they DON'T have: to wit, anything resembling the quantity of government with which we in this universe are afflicted. Which is WHY they live to be 150 years old(older if they wish), can buy personal spacecraft, and carry plasma pistols(as well as any other personal weapons they desire). Control freaks get no respect, and high life insurance rates... because the various species of the Confederacy take violent exception to fools trying to run other folks' lives for them.
Okay, no spoilers! Just buy the book, already!