While Ro is approached by Odo to act as an intermediary in the question of missing Cardassian prisoners of war in Romulan space, first contact is made with a new species, the People of the Open Sky, laid back, friendly, with lots of children. Meanwhile, Katherine Pulaski has joined the Federation ship Athene Donald dedicated to exploration, and crewed by a multitude of species, even non-allied ones like a Tzenkethi. In the last moment, SI commander Peter Alden joins the crew to Pulaski's displeasure. He was supposed to be accompanied by another Tzenkethi, but somehow she missed their departure just as a robbery occurs on DS9. And within days they make first contact with an advanced species, the Chain.
Suspicions, prejudices, secrets and spies could be the tags to this novel. Everyone is suspicious of everybody else, especially Pulaski of Alden, Alden of the Tzenkethi crewmember, Blackmer of the missing Tzenkethi on DS9 etc. That gets tiresome quite fast because even if some of the suspicions are warranted, they don't influence the main story. And then there's the Chain who after learning about the People's presence on DS9 demand their extradition based on prejudice. That Starfleet even considers that demand without any kind of proof is ridiculous at best and perpetuated prejudice at worst. Frankly, I could have done without the waxing about war orphans and the history-lessons about the Romani on Earth because common sense and an adherence to the rule of law where evidence is needed before any kind of claims are heard, would have sufficed to solve that issue - even if, of course, the Chain ship was superior in force to the Athene Donald. But why does no one suggest to just accompany the Chain ship to DS9? That would have removed the immediate threat and offered the opportunity to deal with the issue directly.
What I enjoyed very much was Odo's portrayal, his sense of justice coming through again, be it in dealing with the PoW-issue (and Garak) or with the missing Tzenkethi Corazame who is somehow groomed by Alden to return to Ab-Tzenketh as a spy for the Federation but finds herself for the first time making a stand for herself. Alden himself turns out to be quite an interesting character, a scientist turned spy. I'm curious to find out more about him, especially his background with the Tzenkethi, and whether or not he really can shed his ties to Starfleet Intelligence as he's trying to do by the end of this novel following a conversation with Corazame
Crusher's interim stay on DS9 as CMO remains rather bland, as do her issues with returning to the Enterprise and Picard that tie back to "Silent Weapons" when Picard protected her instead of the president. I don't know, perhaps it's because it's been years since I read the Data-trilogy, and in the Fall novels the rift between Picard and Crusher was more of a pretense for outside observers so that her leaving the Enterprise makes sense... but all that introspection here doesn't work for me. And DS9 itself suffers from a lack of interesting crewmembers. The only ones that actually get some kind of "screentime" are Ro and Blackmer, with appearances by O'Brien, Tenmei and Nog (though the latter two are absent here), so I wonder: How can a space station so vast be led by just 2 or 3 officers? Where is the rest of the crew?
Overall, "The Missing" leaves me feeling ambivalent. There are a few things I'd like to follow up on, but those were unfortunately few and far inbetween.