Self-published/SilverWood Books 2013
Inevitably, a review of this book will contain spoilers for the first title in the series, Inceptio, so if you haven’t read it and don’t like spoilers, look away now…
Perfiditas is set seven years after Inceptio (which came as something of a surprise, since I’d assumed the first book was set in our present day, which was perhaps silly of me). Carina is still working for the PGSF (the Praetorian Guard Special Forces, a sort of cross between MI5 and MI6 and the US Special Forces, maybe), somewhat complicated by the fact that her husband has just been appointed legate, or head, of the organisation. She’s also just won the position of strategos (head of strategy) in the recent reorganisation, and starts the book slightly distracted from making her first presentation by a friend, Mossia Antonia, who’s angry with and worried about her lover and employee Aidan, who’s accused her of unfair working practices and stolen from her, and now disappeared.
Carina’s investigation of Aidan’s disappearance reveals a conspiracy, leading to her own hurried departure from PGSF and the legate’s imprisonment. She resurrects her criminal identity, Pulcheria, from the previous book, and the rest of the team, firstly to extract Conrad from prison, and secondly to find out what’s going on, who’s behind it, and how to stop them.
This novel is much more straightforward, plot-wise, than Inceptio, since there really is only the one plot strand, and the book’s all the better for it. Carina shows her competence and care for her team and her friends and family, and there’s a lot more detail of the Mitela family and the political web which binds the chief families together, which is interesting (and allows Morton to circumvent due process in the legal system when it comes to one of the chief conspirators). I didn’t like the ending, though, or at least the revelation of the identity of one of the conspirators, partly because Morton had drawn him as a really interesting character, and partly because it allowed Conrad (ugh) to be right about him rather than Carina.
I dislike Conrad because he’s a typical alpha male, always convinced he’s right – unfortunately events seem to prove this belief founded, which is annoying – and he still doesn’t trust Carina – who is eminently competent – or, indeed, anyone else, to do a job properly without him. He’s always so serious, and there’s absolutely no levity or silly side to him. He doesn’t consider the difficulties to Carina of their relationship – though I do think she’d be better off in the Department of Justice where she started her career in law enforcement, where she wouldn’t have to negotiate her work around her husband as boss: it makes the power dynamics in the relationship feel off, since there’s no sense that Conrad is the junior partner in a civilian situation.
Apart from that, I found the casual use of torture in the book rather uncomfortable: when extracting information from four of the conspirators, Carina and her colleague Justus essentially beat them up, and there’s no real acknowledgement that it’s wrong – it’s justified in this context, because the conspirators are planning worse (and indeed she discovers are doing worse):
‘You don’t like this side of it, do you?’ Behind the curiosity in [Justus’] eyes I saw unexpected sympathy. ‘I remember from before, you preferred to trick them.’
‘I’m realistic enough to know we don’t have time now,’ I conceded. ‘But no, I don’t.’
I’d given up counting how many laws I’d violated.
That doesn’t sound like someone who believes torture is wrong, and when the evidence thus extracted is presented to the investigators afterwards, it’s not seen as inadmissible, either.
The conspiracy itself seems realistic enough, though their methods seem unnecessarily vicious for a country which has had predominantly women in charge for so long (but then, maybe no worse than the Taliban’s treatment of women in Afghanistan during their regime).
So, not bad, and an interesting exploration of Roma Novan society, though with the reservations expressed above.
Note: I received an ARC free from the author in exchange for an honest review.