Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold
Read in October 2009 as part of the omnibus edition Miles, Mystery & Mayhem
Miles and Ivan travel as diplomatic representatives of Emperor Gregor to the home world of the Cetagandan Empire for the funeral of the Empress. A ten-day trip to observe and enjoy social customs (and parties) quickly turns sour when Miles become embroiled in a mystery and suicide/murder that threatens to frame him, and by implication Barrayar, for a treasonous usurpation plot.
Miles, being Miles, convinces himself, and Ivan, that only he can save Barrayar’s honor and salvage the Cetagandan society from destruction or evolving into a more aggressive and expanding threat to Barrayar. Miles manages to unravel the tangled web of political intrigue, gender and caste mores and sidestep his own ImpSec watchdogs.
Of the five Vorkosigan Saga novels I’ve read, Cetaganda is probably my second favorite, right after Barrayar The mystery muddled me, the bioscience intrigued me and the Cetaganda society bemused me. I didn’t roll my eyes or suspend my belief at Miles antics or the situations he found himself in. I can’t say the same for Ivan, but then he’s a healthy young male besieged by breathtakingly beautiful women and succumbs to the obvious.
Cetaganda also stands alone very well. I can comfortably recommend this to anyone who loves a good mystery in a space opera setting.