The plot, like so many of Doc’s recent adventures, tends to wind down rather than up, but a good time is had by all.

SALT RIVER

Two distinct sets of chickens come home to roost for Sanibel Island marine biologist Dr. Marion Ford and his improbably wealthy beach-bum pal Tomlinson (Caribbean Rim, 2018, etc.).

Delia Carapoulos is a beautiful young woman, a recent graduate of Eckerd College, a starry-eyed fan of Tomlinson's, and also, according to her, his biological daughter, a revelation that shocks him out of his desultory amatory fantasies about the nubile visitor. In fact, she’s only the advance guard of a tidal wave of offspring made possible by Tomlinson’s endless sperm donations a generation ago. Now the anything-but-proud papa’s data has been released to several of the children looking to track him down, not all of them happy about the news of their paternity. One reputed son, Jayden F. Griffin, makes such an impression on his arrival at Sanibel that he’s hauled off by the feds and charged with terrorism and murder. By the time Tomlinson finally appeals to Doc Ford for help, his buddy is awash in an equally unwelcome reprise of his own past: the appearance of several variously threatening characters convinced that he can lead them to late, legendary treasure hunter Jimmy Jones’ lost millions. All right, Leo Alomar, the first of these latest intruders into Doc’s life, isn’t really a special investigator with the IRS’s Whistleblower Program. But Rayvon Darwin, the lover of Alomar’s estranged wife, Nanette, really is a lieutenant with the Nassau customs agency, and Doc’s only hope of thwarting his search for Lydia Johnson, the treasure hunter’s widow Doc helped to disappear, may be to assume the role of Morris Berg, the informant Ray wants to engage to get information that will sink Doc—unless of course he discovers that Morris and Doc are one and the same.

The plot, like so many of Doc’s recent adventures, tends to wind down rather than up, but a good time is had by all.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-735-21272-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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