Far from perfect, but Hoffman’s more adventurous fans will appreciate this interesting effort.


The veteran, bestselling author (Blackbird House, 2004, etc.) takes risks—most of which pay off—in her dark tale of a woman literally struck by lightning.

The unnamed narrator has been racked by guilt since she was eight, when she petulantly wished that her mother would disappear. Mom died in a car accident that very night, and the traumatized girl grows up into a quiet librarian with a violent interior life. Her preferred reading is the grimmest sort of fairy tale; she makes up one of her own about a girl who turns into ice so that “nothing could hurt her anymore.” At the reference desk she specializes in information on ways to die, an expertise that leads her into a joyless sexual liaison with the local police chief. After the grandmother who raised them dies, the narrator’s brother takes his severely depressed sister to Orlon, Fla., where he’s a professor of meteorology. Peeved by his enthusiasm for the stormy weather en route, she wishes to be struck by lightning, and . . . you guessed it. The setup is schematic, and the gloomy narrator can be wearying, even when she embarks on a torrid affair with another lightning-strike survivor: Lazarus Jones, who’s still so hot to the touch that they must have sex in water so he doesn’t scorch her. But slowly, just as you’re thinking you’ll scream if you read another fairy-tale metaphor or gruesome description of the damage sustained by lightning victims, the narrator begins to be drawn out of her self-absorbed misery. Her brother and his wife are in desperate straits, Lazarus is not what he seems, and the shock of these discoveries jolts her into recognition that she cares for other people more than she’s admitted. Despite what happened to her mother (which also proves to be not quite what it seemed), love is as necessary as breathing. And love “changed your whole world. Even when you didn’t want it to.” It takes a while to get to the beautiful closing pages, which give the narrator a happy ending she’s more than earned, but this thickly textured, heavily metaphorical approach finally leads us to some genuine human emotion.

Far from perfect, but Hoffman’s more adventurous fans will appreciate this interesting effort.

Pub Date: April 4, 2005

ISBN: 0-316-05859-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2005

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


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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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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