A decidedly mixed bag, not unlike love itself.

A DEADLY AFFAIR

UNEXPECTED LOVE STORIES FROM THE QUEEN OF MYSTERY

Fifteen reprinted stories, most of them originally published between 1923 and 1933, for those who think the doyenne of golden-age detective fiction had no time for love.

Fans of Christie’s novel-length puzzlers won’t be surprised to learn that love doesn’t conquer all. In “Death by Drowning,” Miss Jane Marple announces Rose Emmott, unmarried and pregnant, has been murdered, and she knows by whom. A pair of lovers confess separately to killing the woman’s husband in the Harley Quin mystery “The Love Detectives.” Hercule Poirot intervenes in a lovers’ triangle only just in time to prevent murder in “Wasps’ Nest,” as does Quin’s friend Mr. Satterthwaite in “The Face of Helen.” Soon after asking the vacationing Mr. Parker Pyne to determine whether she’s being poisoned in “Death on the Nile,” the importunate Lady Grayle is dead. Tommy and Tuppence do their best to compete with the Father Brown franchise in “The Man in the Mist.” It would be a stretch to call most of these love stories, and amateur sleuths would have to look even more closely to find the romance in “Fruitful Sunday,” in which a jeweled necklace appears in a just-purchased bowl of fruit, or “The Case of the Caretaker,” in which Miss Marple’s physician gives her a mysterious story to read and solve. But love plays a more central role in the lesser tales “The Case of the Rich Woman” (a client of Mr. Parker Pyne’s who is seeking happiness finds it through an unexpected romance) and “Magnolia Blossom” (a straying wife is torn between loyalty to her husband and the creditor she loves), and in the best of the bunch, “The King of Clubs,” Poirot deftly uncovers the truth about a lothario who deserved exactly what happened to him. The collection is capped by Christie’s reminiscences of two abortive romances of her own.

A decidedly mixed bag, not unlike love itself.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-314234-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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