Someone is killing ambassadors aboard the Enterprise, and the culprit appears to be some supernatural being–the Angel of Death. Col. Elizabeth Schaeffer, a member of the Special Security Division, is dispatched to solve the mystery.
This is a closed circle mystery, and moreover each murder is a locked room mystery. To drive the point home, the first victim is an alien called Agnatha–which is even, at one point, misprinted in my copy as Agatha.
The murders are being committed by a psychic projection of Dr. M'Benga. He's plausible as a suspect: he is strongly in favor of peace, and the victims are opposed; he was infected with the psychic spores; he doesn't remember his dreams, which could mean he's doing something without knowing. But there's not enough evidence to make him more than merely plausible.
In short, I didn't find the mystery compelling. The book had its moments.
Sky was instructed to add lots of aliens (Ayers, 2006, p. 26), so she added fish people and lobster people and bear people and a cat person called Ambassador Neko from the planet Gyuunyuu (in Japanese, Ambassador Cat from the planet Milk) and this is just the shallowest way you can think of to make aliens. At least Ambassador Si-s-s-s(click) is entertaining, and the idea of a planet of people who read books and imitate them is a bit interesting. It's similar to "A Piece of the Action", I guess, but on an individual level.
The SSD is a very un-Trek-like sort of organization:
A special security division had been established very early in the development of Star Fleet. The black-clad group of elite security investigators was sometimes jokingly referred to as the Federation's equivalent of the Texas Rangers. But there was also an undertone of fear and dislike in Star Fleet's relationship with the SSD. There had been accusations of Gestapo-like techniques, and a general feeling that the end justified the means; also, the strange esprit de corps that existed among the members of the Special Security Division was frightening to many of the Federation's other ranking officers. The Special Security Division felt no loyalty to anything but the Federation and the SSD. They gave no quarter in their investigations, and should a high-ranking Federation official be implicated in a crime or misdeed, there was no bargaining with the Special Security Division. Justice was their motto, and let the chips fall where they might. They respected no one, and their loyalty to their code of ethics was unbreakable. They were a necessary force but a feared one.
Sort of a proto-Section 31, I guess? They seem to raise (at least some of) their members from birth:
Colonel Elizabeth Schaeffer had been an official member of the SSD for twenty of her thirty-five years. She had been born in an SSD creche, chosen as a cadet at the age of fifteen, and had devoted her entire life to the Special Security Division.
In two months it would be time to renew their marriage contract. Both Elizabeth and Alex would receive renewal papers, and if either party decided not to sign those papers, the marriage was null and void.
Sky takes her cue from Star Trek: The Motion Picture here, with automatically-expiring marriage contracts.
Having read Sky's last Trek effort, Vulcan!, I'm not shocked by the book's attitudes, but I'm still disappointed.
Kirk will chase anything vaguely feminine, including amphibians who explicitly have no interest in sex. He's honest about it, at least.
The worst bit in this one (as with Sky's previous book, in fact) has to do with Spock.
Spock was infected by the telepathic spores, and their effect is to unleash a psychic doppelganger which, in the absence of the direction from the Oz poppies to spread the spores, acts according to one's subconscious urges. For Spock, this meant that his other self trotted down the hall and raped a semi-conscious lieutenant. He used his psychic powers to keep her half-asleep, then altered her memories to make her think it was just a dream–this as a sort of act of mercy, apparently. Col. Schaeffer absolves him of any guilt (which, to be fair–his actions really weren't under his control) by speculating that maybe the lietuenant that he raped enjoyed it.