The second book of the Beka Cooper series features an almost complete changeover in cast. It’s year after the first book, and Beka is having trouble with finding a permanent patrol partner. After an introductory section, most of the previous cast is shuffled off-screen, with Beka going to Port Caynn with Goodwin, but Tunstall is out of action with broken legs, and Pounce is called away on other business.

The novel starts to touch on, but sadly doesn’t explore the difference between being dependent on someone, and just being used to their presence. That might get too deep for this, and isn’t really where the book goes, but like I said, it does momentarily touch the idea, and I think it’d be a good theme for a YA novel.

Overall, the plot is much more focused and direct than the first book. The bulk of it is one investigation into one problem, and the main uncertainties quickly boil down into motive. This helps the novel keep a fast pace, and all the new cast of characters is as good as the old. Even better, the repetitive elements of the first book seem largely absent here, which helps the flow a lot.

Of course, afterward there’s a return to… most of the status quo of the beginning, so all these new characters are just guest stars, which makes some of the ending feel a bit forced.