This is the third book in Stross' Merchant Princes trilogy, which revolves around a clan of people who can "world-walk", passing between alternate Earths. They've built a tidy life for themselves, even though they can only bring as much between the worlds as they themselves can carry. There are also physical effects to consider, which makes frequent world-walking out of the question. Enter Miriam Beckstein, recently cashiered investigative journalist, who accidentally discovers she's part of this clan, and we get to see the clan's home turf of Gruinmarkt from her point of view. Miriam's problems have just begun, though - she's part of the fallout from a very bloody intrafamily war, and a lot of people have plans for her. Some of those plans come to fruition in this volume. but not quite the way the planners hoped. We get to see Miriam (usually in the awkward Helge persona) trying clumsily to deal with family politics, Gruinmarkt politics, the politics of New London -a third world where England's rule continues in the New World much as the Portuguese Empire did in Brazil after Spain took over in the 19th century - and just to add to the confusion, her DEA ex-boyfriend shows up as part of a government effort to determine just how much of a threat to post-9/11 America the clan is...aside from the relatively minor problem of the Clan smuggling hundred of kilos of coke into the country, of course. Unlike the heroes of other parallel-world adventures such as H. Beam Piper's Kalvan of Otherwhen and Keith Laumer's Worlds of the Imperium, Miriam/Helge doesn't even come close to mastering the situations she's in and in fact usually manages to make things considerably worse despite her good intentions. Highly entertaining; the book ends on a cliffhanger, which made me gnash my teeth and hope there'll be an omnibus edition sometime in the future.
And on that note, I think I'm going to bed early again. It's going to be a busy weekend and I want to be well-rested for it.