Conscience of the Beagle

Patricia Anthony
Conscience of the Beagle Cover

Conscience of the Beagle


Top Cop Major Dyle Holloway leads a crack forensic team from Earth to the colony planet Tennyson. Murders that could be the work of terrorists have occurred seven times now on this normally peaceful and affluent planet. Anthony's team includes a construct, their name for a cyborg, who is a master at determining patterns within the most obscure series of events. He is the Beagle. There is also Szabo the psychic and Milos the munitions expert. They have been lovers in the past. The thought is that this team will have the little situation cleaned up in a jiffy, but what they find on Tennyson is a rat's nest of intrigue, simmering anger, and untrustworthy assistants.

From what the reader picks up in conversation from the principles, Earth has become a miserable place. It is over-populated and polluted and its society is oppressively stratified. Tennysonians refers to Eathers as Ticks. The Earthers are flabbergasted by the blue skies and available space on Tennyson. They are offered food that would be reserved for only the most elite in their homeworld, and their hotel rooms are the size of their apartments on Earth.

Tennyson was founded as a Christian planet, and its leader is the Chosen of God. A group called God's Warriors keep an eye on things, ticketing people for bad language and any other un-Christian behavior. Oral sex is a misdemeanor and homosexuality is a crime. Needless to say the central city of Hebron, with its streets all named after holy scripture or Biblical concepts, has a seedy southside peopled by malcontents and those that have fallen into poverty, drink, or drug addiction. As one character, who may or may not be the head of the secret police says, "…You've heard of our unrest here. People get disgruntled. It happens in a theocracy." Another bombing occurs shortly after the Earth team arrives.

There is trouble in paradise, but the Earth team has problems of its own. There is tension between the ex-lovers and Major Holloway himself is obsessed by remorse and plagued by fears that come from the recent, unsolved murder of his wife. The nonhuman Beagle is the most clear-headed of the lot.

Holloway narrates the story in first person and present tense, using short sentences that move the plot along quickly at a staccato pace. No one can be trusted, many people will die, and one major scientific breakthrough will instigate a finale on a grander scale than anything the novel to that point implies.