Hour of Judgment

Burkhayden is a subject colony, leased by the Bench to a Dolgorukij familial corporation for the economic exploitation of a captive population of Nurail reduced to near-slave status.  Pending the execution of the formal transfer documents all damages and dilapidations remain the Bench’s responsibility; and so it is that when a woman from the service house – a Nurail under Bond – is brutally raped and beaten by an officer from the JFS Ragnarok the property damage must be made good, by the Ragnarok’s own chief medical officer:  Andrej Koscuisko, Ship’s Surgeon, Ship’s Inquisitor.

There is one among Koscuisko’s bond-involuntary Security slaves who recognizes the tortured woman, a man prevented from so much as contemplating revenge by the governor in his brain.  And yet murder is done in port Burkhayden, and an innocent man taken for the crime – to be tortured until he confesses, so that he may be subsequently executed at the Tenth Level, to uphold the rule of Law and the Judicial order.

The transfer must go forward.  The only way Andrej can protect a man he loves is to condemn a guiltless man to atrocious torment, to gratify the sadistic appetites of the Ragnarok’s corrupt Captain Lowden.

Before that fateful night is out Andrej Koscuisko will put himself under sentence of death by torture to do what must be done at last:  and Port Burkhayden will burn.


"Matthews keeps returning to the possibility of right action in a hideously wrong world, of decency struggling to assert itself despite the threat of pain and death, of the durability of compassion and respect."

—Russel Letson, LOCUS

"Matthews’ Jurisdiction novels are deeply focused on character, and intensely interested in anguish, the dynamics of absolute power, and the tension between conflicting – I hesitate to say “moral,” but perhaps “dutiful” will do – imperatives. I have yet to read science fiction by another author that takes these themes from a similar angle."

—Liz Bourke, columnist at Tor.com