I said his last book, Time Travelers Never Die, wasn't my favorite, so I was very happy when this book in the Alex Benedict series arrived. I became less happy as I read it. The book, like the others, is "written" as a memoir by Alex's assistant Chase Kolpath. In this book, Chase is an idiot. That's never happened before. I checked the book cover and McDevitt is still married, so I don't know why he did that.
Alex runs an antiquities business where he connects buyers to sellers and takes a good bit of the money. He sees an odd tablet with symbols on it and decides he wants it. Chase arranges to pick it up, but it's gone when she gets there. It turns out that some relatives of Rachel Bannister, a pilot for a galactic tour company 28 years before, picked it up. She continues to insist that it doesn't exist, she's had it dropped in the river, it's been demolished, etc., but Alex & Chase can't find it and don't believe her. Eventually Alex and Chase have found a lot more information on the tablet, but not where it came from or what the symbols are. Rachel gets up on a bridge and jumps.
Chase thinks it's her fault because she went up to talk to Rachel, and then got her wrist briefly before she fell. Alex still wants to work on the tablet info and Chase can't handle it. She gets a much less paying pilot job to and from Earth with two layovers. She doesn't really like it, but she's not involved anymore, until she hears information about the people involved with the tablet and asks questions. She returns to Alex's company and they run a competition for people who were out on the appropriate tours and took pictures -- the best will get rewards and go into a book -- and they find the most likely pictures and take them to a friend. She finds out where the world was that caused all the problems.
The first world has a ruined outpost as well as white-furred ape-like critters that they have to get away from. Their lander is damaged in the process. Their spaceship, Belle-Marie, brings the lander back up. When they reach the second world, they find a lot of towns that look like they were just abandoned but eventually find some people. The people shoot at the lander, further damaging it. The lander gets a good distance away, but it falls and starts burning. A local helps get Alex and Chase out.
The locals immediately help them and they start learning their language. They find out that there are only a few still-existing towns like this -- the others were all destroyed during the Dark Times. Rot-13: Nyrk naq Punfr ernyvmr gung gur Qnex Gvzrf jnf pnhfrq ol Enpury naq gur gbhe pbzcnal fur jbexf sbe -- fur gbffrq n pbzrg ng gur cynarg, abg xabjvat vg jnf vaunovgrq, naq xvyyrq zbfg bs gur crbcyr. Guvf vf jul Enpury qbrfa'g jnag nalobql gb xabj nobhg gur gnoyrg be gur jbeyq.
The story is really good, just like the others, but Chase has never been stupid like this before. Her actions/inactions kill two innocent young women. She kills two professional assassins, but Alex wanted to talk to one (she forgot to change the weapon back to "unconsious"). Her romantic life is weird. I don't know what's up.