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Two cases in the life of Miro Hetzel, Galactic Effectuator - a private eye. "A clever man, with the soul of a nomad and pretentions beyond his class" as one of his clients says when he tries to crick up his fees. The son of an engineer and a Gael from the Isle of Skye on Old Earth, he 'does' cases for well-off clients with large and strange problems.

The first of the two told cases to us here is about high-tech materials emanating from a planet where *any* tech is forbidden, as the local species, the Gomaz, are ferocious warriors who once almost conquered known space. Three species, including humans, oversee the planet from a single occupied city. At a session of the occupying powers, where Hetzel is about to raise pertinent questions, two of the commissars are murdered - but not all is what it seems.
The second case concerns an old schoolmate of Hetzel's (with a personality at times reminiscent of one of the Devil's Princes, I thought), who is thought to be responsible for the theft of some vital parts of a wealthy socialite - his wedding tackle, to put it politely. Hetzel's old contacts are useful in tracing the culprit, who is very good at disappearing.

I thought the first case, the longer one, was excellent, while the second one was rather solution-driven. But as usual it is not so much the storyline as the atmosphere and Vance's dry observations on human peculiarities that keep us (well, me) spellbound.
Four-and-a-half stars.
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Miro Hetzel is the long-suffering wheeler-dealer protagonist linking two stories previously published separately, 'The Dogtown Tourist Agency' and 'Freitzke's Turn'. This takes place in Vance's usual future history.

Jack Vance has an instantly recognisable idiosyncratic style, and we are not disappointed here, especially when reading between the lines. The Effectuator Hetzel might be a Detective, or a Mercenary, or a Con-man, or perhaps even poetic justice personified. But somehow he always seems to rise above adversity on behalf of the most deserving people, and the villans are suitably discomforted.

But then consider the imagery, the descriptions of characters and worlds, the shady dealings and even shadier dealers. This book is wonderful for immersing oneself in an escape to another place and another time. The pictures in the mind are fantastic.

Why only four stars? It feels to me as if it has been hurriedly cobbled together, and I would have liked to have read more about this character, it all seems to end a bit suddenly. In my opinion it is not quite up to Vance's usual standard, but still better than most other SF authors.

His earlier and more rounded creation Magnus Ridolph can be found in the Ace double The Many Worlds Of Magnus Ridolph / The Brains Of Earth which is very similar in style and character.
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on 11 January 2015
So pleased when I found this book in America. Love all of Jack Vance's books, this is a spin off from Dogtown Tourist Agency and has the same magic as all of his offworld Gaen Reach books (think that's the right spelling!)
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on 25 September 2014
One of the Master's best books, a classic.
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