1989’s Nightside City is the first of Lawrence Watt-Evan’s Carlisle Hsing hard-SF mystery novels, which are in turn a subset of Watt-Evan’s Shining Steel Universe.
Down-at-heel private detective Carlisle Hsing cannot be choosy about which cases to accept. Nevertheless, the case offered to her by Zarathustra Pickens is a new low. Not only is the pay laughably small, the case itself makes no sense. Why would someone be buying up doomed real estate?
But first! An infodump about the exoplanet on which the story is set.