After a crewmember is crippled in a battle with the Klingons Captain James Kirk takes the Enterprise to Vulcan, where an experimental treatment under development at the Vulcan Academy of Science promises to return him to health. Also undergoing the treatment is Spock's mother Amanda, who is suffering from a degenerative nerve disease that threatens to end her life. As Kirk, Spock, and Leonard McCoy settle in for an extended stay on Spock's homeworld, an catastrophic failure kills one of the subjects undergoing the treatment. Then a second patient dies, raising an unthinkable question — could there be a murderer on Vulcan?
Jean Lorrah's novel, her first of several contributions to the Star Trek universe, is unusual in several respects. One is its setting, as it is the first to be set on Vulcan. This gives Lorrah an opportunity to offer readers an extended look at life on Vulcan, and it is to her credit that she does not overdo it by making the novel about the arcana of one of the most popular cultures of the Star Trek universe. Given the location, it might be expected that Spock would take center stage in the novel, yet Lorrah surprises once again by making his father Sarek the primary Vulcan in the storyline. This further adds to the novel's appeal, as it gives readers an extended look at a beloved character who had yet to receive the extended focus he would in subsequent novels and TV episodes.
Finally there is the plot of Lorrah's novel, which is a rare bird indeed among Star Trek novels: a murder mystery. Here she develops her setting by introducing several new characters (perfectly understandable, as nobody is going to buy a murderer being one of the familiar faces of the bridge crew) and lets the plot unfold while developing them. This she does over the course of the first half of the book, letting suspects accumulate as the murders take place and the motivations are established. Yet all of this is ruined at the halfway point of the novel, when she tips her hand as to the identify of the murderer, after which the rest of the book lapses into a mundane pattern of chasing red herrings and identifying the guilty party at the very end. It's a disappointing ending for a novel that throughout much of its first half offered an engaging tale of mystery in an unlikely place.