An entertaining private-eye yarn with off-kilter skulduggery and domestic comedy.

THE BEGONIA KILLER

A MCGILL INVESTIGATORS NOVEL

A twisty detective thriller featuring ruthless gardening and possibly worse.

This third installment of Bond’s mystery series finds private investigator Molly McGill back in placid northern New Jersey. Local housewife Martha Dodson hires her to prove that her neighbor Kent Kirkland kidnapped two boys who’ve been missing for months—and is currently holding them in a bedroom above his garage. It’s probably just a busybody’s idle fancy; the police believe that one of the boys may be dead and that the other is in Venezuela. There’s also nothing especially suspicious about Kirkland aside from an apparent delivery of a scooter to his house and a weird incident when he destroyed his own begonias in a fit of rage. Molly worms her way into his house, posing as a horticulturist, and finds that the mystery bedroom contains vegetable seedlings, not captive boys—but Kirkland proves so angry, controlling, and odd that she sticks with the investigation. She’s helped by detective Art Judd, who brushes off Martha’s theories but still supplies leads to Molly, in part because the two have taken a romantic shine to each other. Meanwhile, Molly parents 14-year-old Zach and 6-year-old Karen, assisted but not really helped by her cantankerous live-in grandmother. After the special-ops fireworks that Molly set off with colleagues Quaid Rafferty and Durwood Oak Jones in The Anarchy of the Mice (2020), this solo outing showcases a quieter kind of sleuthing. Bond shows how Molly deploys her psychology training in nerve-wracking scenes in which she improvises strategies to get information or derail violence. He tells the story with his usual well-paced plotting, sharply etched characters, and atmospheric prose: “It was dusk, that time before exterior lights wink on when houses seem to watch the street with slit eyes,” Molly observes of Kirkland’s pretty yet sinister subdivision. There’s also raucous humor (“Do you take advantage of the prostitutes when you book them?” Granny asks a mortified Art, inspired by her gritty TV police dramas). The result is a diverting mystery with a beguiling, shrewd, and tough hero.

An entertaining private-eye yarn with off-kilter skulduggery and domestic comedy.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73-462252-2

Page Count: 194

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Perhaps A-list screenwriters will be able to spin TV gold from this sketchy treatment.

THE LIONESS

An actress and her entourage are kidnapped by Russians in Bohjalian’s uneven thriller.

In 1964, Hollywood’s gossip rags are agog as movie star Katie Barstow marries gallerist David Hill and takes her inner circle along on her honeymoon. And an adventuresome honeymoon it is—on safari in the Serengeti with aging big-game hunter Charlie Patton, who once helped Hemingway bag trophies. But Katie is not the star of this ensemble piece. The populous cast—a who’s who at the beginning is indispensable—includes Katie’s publicist, Reggie Stout; her agent, Peter Merrick; her best friend, Carmen Tedesco, a supporting actress who plays wisecracking sidekicks; and Terrance Dutton, Katie's recent co-star, a Black actor who's challenging Sidney Poitier's singularity in Hollywood. With obvious nods to Hemingway’s worst fear—masculine cowardice—Bohjalian adds in Felix Demeter, Carmen’s husband, a B-list screenwriter who reminds his wife of Hemingway’s weakling Francis Macomber. Felix seems a superfluous double of David, who feels inadequate because Katie is the breadwinner and his father is CIA. Then there’s Katie’s older brother, Billy Stepanov, whose abuse at the hands of their mother shaped the psychologist he is today; Billy’s pregnant wife, Margie; and Benjamin Kikwete, an apprentice safari guide. Thus, a proliferation of voices whose competing perspectives fragment rather than advance the story. The kidnapping plot seems less designed to test each character’s mettle than to exercise Bohjalian’s predilection for minute descriptions of gore. The most heartfelt portrayal here is of the Serengeti and its flora and fauna, but none of the human characters net enough face time to transcend their typecasting. The motives behind the kidnapping might have lent intrigue to the proceedings, but foreshadowing is so slight that the infodump explainer at the end leaves us shocked, mostly at how haphazard the plot is.

Perhaps A-list screenwriters will be able to spin TV gold from this sketchy treatment.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54482-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Generations may succeed generations, but Sandford’s patented investigation/action formula hasn’t aged a whit. Bring it on.

THE INVESTIGATOR

A domestic-terrorist plot gives the adopted daughter of storied U.S. Marshal Lucas Davenport her moment to shine.

Veteran oilman Vermilion Wright knows that losing a few thousand gallons of crude is no more than an accounting error to his company but could mean serious money to whomever’s found a way to siphon it off from wells in Texas’ Permian Basin. So he asks Sen. Christopher Colles, Chair of Homeland Security and Government Affairs, to look into it, and Colles persuades 24-year-old Letty Davenport, who’s just quit his employ, to return and partner with Department of Homeland Security agent John Kaiser to track down the thieves. The plot that right-winger Jane Jael Hawkes and her confederates, most of them service veterans with disgruntled attitudes and excellent military skills, have hatched is more dire than anything Wright could have imagined. They plan to use the proceeds from the oil thefts to purchase some black-market C4 essential to a major act of terrorism that will simultaneously express their alarm about the country’s hospitality to illegal immigrants and put the Jael-Birds on the map for good. But they haven’t reckoned with Letty, another kid born on the wrong side of the tracks who can outshoot the men she’s paired with and outthink the vigilantes she finds herself facing—and who, along with her adoptive father, makes a memorable pair of “pragmatists. Really harsh pragmatists” willing to do whatever needs doing without batting an eye or losing a night’s sleep afterward.

Generations may succeed generations, but Sandford’s patented investigation/action formula hasn’t aged a whit. Bring it on.

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32868-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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