ALONG CAME A SPIDER

Catchy title; too bad the psychothriller behind it—despite the publisher's big push—is a mostly routine tale of cop vs. serial-killer. And it's really too bad for Patterson (The Midnight Club, 1988, etc.) that William Diehl's new thriller, Primal Fear (reviewed above), covers some of the same territory with superior energy and skill. A few charms lift this above run-of-the-mill: Patterson's hero, D.C. psychologist/cop Alex Cross, is black, while his lover, Secret Service honcho Jezzie Flanagan, is white; and the narrative moves briskly by cutting between Cross's ambling account and a sharper third-person tracking, mostly of the killer's movements. He is Gary Soneji—a nobody living a deceptively quiet life as Gary "Murphy"—who has killed 200 people and now wants to commit the Crime of the Century and become Somebody: Soneji/Murphy snatches the daughter of a top actress and the son of the US secretary of the treasury. Enter Cross and Flanagan, whose bad luck at finding kids and kidnapper—who, taunting the cops, kills an FBI agent and gets away with a $10-million payoff, while one of the kids turns up dead—changes only when Soneji/Murphy, cracking up, holds hostage to a McDonald's and is wounded by a cop. Here, Patterson's tale begins to mirror Diehl's: Soneji/Murphy turns out to suffer from the same sensational psychosis as Diehl's villain; and in the ensuing trial, Soneji/Murphy's lawyer pursues a defense similar to that of Diehl's attorney-hero. But where Diehl's villain roars on the page, Soneji/Murphy barely smirks; and while Diehl's courtroom crackles with intelligence, Patterson's is almost transcript-dull. Patterson does wind up, however, with a fine noir twist. Cross is a likable hero, but with a watery plot and weak villain—Hannibal Lecter would eat Soneji for breakfast—he doesn't have much to work with here.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-316-69364-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1992

Did you like this book?

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

more