Cauldron is a science fiction book by Jack McDevitt, the 6th novel in the Priscilla Hutchins series. If you liked the others, you'll like this. If you haven't read the others, this is perfectly enjoyable on its own.
from the back of the book:
By 2255, the age of starflight is over. The Academy of Science and Technology is long closed, and the only efforts at space exploration are carried on by privately funded foundations. However, physicist Jon Silvestri insists that an abandoned prototype for a much more efficient star drive is workable. Priscilla Hutchins, now a fund-raiser for the Prometheus Foundation, persuades the group to back his research. Soon the Cauldron -the core of the galaxy- is only months away. At long last, the mystery of the deadly omega clouds that have devastated the galaxy for centuries can be penetrated. And a handful of brave men and women, Priscilla Hutchins among them, will journey into the very heart of the Cauldron...Kirkus Review closes with this: "Not peak McDevitt—slow to develop and not especially surprising—but workmanlike and brimming with the author’s trademark low-key charms." Eyrie was disappointed in it as a conclusion to the series. SF Site concludes:
For all that Cauldron draws on McDevitt’s earlier novels, everything a reader needs to know to enter his wonder-filled world is included in the book, which can easily stand on its own. New readers won’t feel lost while returning fans won’t feel that they are being told information that they already know. Cauldron succeeds as both an entry in an on-going series and as a stand-alone novel.