Reviewed by Robert Runté
Lost Cargo is the sequel to Lost Souls. I gave Lost Souls a positive review (February 2023 issue of ORB), but Lost Cargo cements Chinn as one of my all-time favourite writers.
Lost Souls was a good, solid space opera that combined mystery, comedy and action. My only caveat was that the reader had to get past some potentially distracting backstory early on. If I’m honest, though, I only tripped over the backstory in Lost Souls because in my day-job as an editor, ‘too much backstory’ is something I have to watch out for. Having now read Lost Cargo, I realize that the mystery is all about the backstory and that Chinn totally knew what he was doing.
The central mystery of Lost Souls having been solved, I expected Lost Cargo to be the further but unrelated adventures of Moss and friends. I was half right. Moss sets out to make the one-big-score that will set him up for retirement; villain Roy sees his chance to take a shot at Moss; and the authorities are after them both. The storyline carried me along from incident to incident, enjoying the comedy and the deepening character arcs in what is basically a heist novel. If I had to sum up the writing of Lost Cargo in a single word, it would be “smooth”.It was such fun I almost didn’t notice that the continuing dive into backstory was hinting at a much larger mystery than the one already solved in Lost Souls. I loved the climax to Lost Cargo—I howled with laughter and pumped my fist when I realized what author Chinn had done to set up the ending—but this was no separate mystery, no simple heist actioner. Rather, it was yet another layer of the onion that is the Get Lost mystery series. Underneath it all, there is something going on, and it’s big, and likely very, very bad.
Lost Cargo, then, is the middle book of a trilogy. By definition, the middle book is the transition from the initiating incident to the final resolution, and like the middle of any thick novel, often drags as the author kills time and fills in relevant details. That’s not the case here, though.
Lost Cargo is an excellent example of pacing and misdirection and can stand alone as its own adventure. I totally did not see the ending coming, even though the foreshadowing is all there. I mean, okay, yes—with Moss as the protagonist, it was obvious this was going to be a heist-gone-wrong novel—but from there on in, the reader is plunged ever deeper into the larger dynamics of Chinn’s world-building, and Chinn’s belief that no matter how bad things are, they can always get much worse.
Which brings us to And Then Things Got Worse, the supposed memoir of one Maurice "Moss" Foote, the protagonist of Lost Saga. Chinn is giving this novella away for free to promote the series and—you guessed it—it’s more back story. I enjoyed it well enough, but I recommend reading the series proper first. Given the short format, Chinn ends up explaining things rather than letting the story speak for itself, so it’s not the best introduction to the more developed novels. Once one is a confirmed fan, then yes, I wanted to know these origin stories, but don’t start there. Start with Lost Souls.
Lost Saga is independently published and recommended for anyone up for good old fashion space opera.