Shadow Mars is a well written romance / science fiction / mystery with several well-developed characters and numerous minor ones. I list romance first because it’s only science fiction in the setting (a colony on Mars), and not as much a whodunnit — there are a couple murders but little of the plot directly involves the main characters in solving them until the end. Nevertheless it’s a page-turner and an easy read. The style compares favorably to my favorite author, Robert Heinlein; the scientific details of the Martian background are present in the conversations and narrative but never stop the story with long expositions. The characters are capable, intelligent, and (in the way of Heinlein’s later novels, it seemed to me) their relationships tend to develop toward one big happy family. Suspense is built gradually with at first minor, intriguing incidents, then more dangerous ones, as the drama flows smoothly. Humor is well blended, not overdone.
All in all an entertaining read that you won’t easily put down, with insight into life, love, and justice on a scientifically realistic Mars colony.
Four and 1/2 stars out of five.