In the distant future, on a far-away planet, there are two human colonies with distinctly different cultures. The Skanians were the original colonists, apparently descended from Scandinavian stock. The later arrivals crash-landed more than 200 years before this story begins. For reasons nobody seems quite sure of, the newcomers were isolated on an island they call Santuario in the sweltering tropics, where they've had little contact with the Skanians.
Alex is a police lieutenant in a small coastal village on Santuario. The police don't have much to do except deal with petty crime. The island is ruled by an oligarchy of “familias” who control all the wealth and industry, and use the iron fist of their private army, the “securitas”, to disappear anyone who crosses them. Alex has personal reasons to fear the securitas, but persists in trying to do what is right, even if it means crossing the familias.
Santuario has a very low murder rate. People don't get killed, they just disappear without a trace. So when the body of a man is found on the beach in Alex's district, their limited experience and resources forces the police to call in the Skanian investigators. Bengt is the investigator assigned to the case. He's never been to Santuario, and the only people from the island he's ever met are the “lucky” few who work in the Skanian mines.
Bengt and Alex must work together to solve the case, which accumulates two more bodies before they're onto any leads, but first they have to trust each other. It's especially hard for Alex, who doesn't really trust anyone and keeps his true feeling closely guarded. Bengt must not only try to pierce Alex's stone walls, but he also has to sort out the misinformation and false assumptions he has about Santuario.
At its heart, “Santurario” is a mystery, and a darn good one. The science fiction setting merely allows the author to construct a world in which to set his murders, so if you're looking for a “hard” sci-fi story, this isn't it. Instead, what you have is a book with strong characters that we get to know quite well, little by little, until they become very real to the reader.
We get to know the not-so-alien world of Santuario like we get to know the characters, slowly and surely. The situation created by the author allows us to learn about Alex's culture naturally, just as Bengt does. This is a stark contrast to the “data dumps” that are all too common in science fiction stories, and further sets this apart as a very distinctively written work.
“Santurario” is available from Amazon.