Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr is one of the best marines that the Confederation has. She's survived more conflicts, and kept more of the men and women under her command alive than nearly anyone else in the service, and when she disappeared into a prison that no one was supposed to know existed, only one man believed she was still alive and fought to find her and get her rescued: Free Salvage Operator Craig Ryder. In rescuing her and the people she broke out of the prison, they both came to the attention of the ones truly behind the war, a group of aliens able to mimic plastics and thus the perfect spies. After breaking news of the plastic aliens to the Confederation and its leaders, the war between the Confederation and their usual foes has ended, since both were being manipulated by the plastic aliens.
Now, her service tour is over and Torin Kerr has mustered out of the military and settled down to life as a salvage operator with Craig. But she's used to the Confed military way of doing things, and is completely shocked and surprised at every turn by the less efficient and seemingly completely arbitrary way the salvagers do things. She tries to adjust, but it's hard, and she has to dial down her reactions and learn a whole new set of responses to old stimuli. But she loves Craig and is willing to do that, because they love each other.
The one that's hardest for her to get over is letting someone else deal with the crisis of salvager ships and families killed or gone missing. She wants the salvagers to do something, to find out what is happening and work to correct it and/or defend themselves if it is some kind of quantifiable threat, and is completely stymied by the salvager complacency and independence. They will only act to defend their own families and ships not those of another, and she has a hard time understanding that attitude. Craig goes as far as to help her notify the relevant authorities, knowing that is a complete waste of time, and she's just as upset and stymied by how the authorities seem determined to do nothing about the situation, and don't seem to care.
But when Craig himself goes missing, Torin's anxiety and impatience ramps up into overdrive. She attempts to enlist the help of the other Salvagers and gets nowhere. Torin is determined to find the man she loves, and if that means getting her own ship and calling on the help of similarly mustered-out comrades to determine what in the hell is actually going on, than that is what she will do.
But she's in bigger trouble than she knows, because the pirates who took Craig want him for the knowledge in his brain for opening a weapons locker meant for the Confed marines. and with the weapons contained in that locker, they could do a lot of damage- or set up their own little fiefdom in the middle of Confed space. So why do the pirates want the codes, and what do they plan on doing with the weapons, and can Craig keep himself alive long enough for Torin and her group to rescue him and put paid to the pirates, when the pirates want the locker opened as quickly as possible?
The previous Confederation novels revolved around Torin being part of the military, but in this one, she's retired and has to deal with a new kind of hierarchy, this one much less proactive and more reactive. And actually, not really reactive at all. In the military, Torin is used to not only kicking butt and taking names, but giving orders and having them obeyed.
Here, she has neither, and it's rather telling that she has to go to her old comrades to get anything done. Torin was military for a long time, and it seems that only she can really see what needs to be done in a Universe where people seem determined to ignore what is really going on, or who are ignorant and prefer to remain so. It seems to me that Torin is eventually going to be drawn back into the military to finally put paid to the plastic aliens, as they continually meddle in her life and that of Craig. But why? That is what we are going to have to find out.
I really enjoyed this book, I don't think that Torin is going to have a very happy life outside of the military. Successful? Well, I don't doubt she'll do well at anything she puts her mind to, but the way that she feels about those who don't react well to her military knowledge... well, I doubt she'll be very happy anywhere *but* the military. Life outside seems to be more pissing her off than truly satisfying for her, and in the end, she may not have a choice. But I find this series and these individual novels very fun and satisfying to read. Fun to the nth degree. Highly recommended.