Sordid and mindlessly sadistic. There may be an audience for stuff this nasty, but wary readers will pass. Sadly, a sequel’s...

DESERT PLACES

Brotherly love hammered ad nauseam in an unsavory horror debut.

Thirtysomething Andy Thomas, a successful horror novelist, is about to experience how unsettling it can be when life decides to imitate art: in other words, he's about to be scared silly. The note, contained in an unstamped envelope, seems at first unworthy of serious attention: “There is a body buried on your property covered in your blood,” it says. Andy smiles, chuckles even—a fan, he thinks. In his experience, horror fans are prone to that kind of sick joke; still, why not check it out? He does and, gulp, it checks. He finds poor Rita Jones, a young schoolteacher who’s been missing for about a month, and whose corpse will, in a variety of irrefutable ways, tell tales to police pathologists, tales concerning Andy. In short, he's been well and truly framed—by his fraternal twin, it soon turns out. Andy hasn't seen Orson since they were 20, when, inexplicably, the latter walked out of the room they shared at Appalachian State University and vanished. What’s he been up to since? Why, killing people, innocent people at random, a dozen of them, slicing their hearts out, depositing each in a cardboard box, and then, the collection complete, delivering it to the White House, though without benefit of the usual accompanying apologia. So explain, please. Neither Orson nor the author appears eager to do that. Ambiguous, also, is exactly what game Orson is inviting Andy to play. Whatever it is, Andy’s unwilling. By now, however, he's convinced there's only one way to deal with a sibling gone psychopathic, setting the stage for a clash that gives fresh meaning to the phrase blood brothers.

Sordid and mindlessly sadistic. There may be an audience for stuff this nasty, but wary readers will pass. Sadly, a sequel’s in the works.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-28644-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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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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Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a...

PIECES OF HER

A plain-Jane daughter’s 31st birthday celebration explodes into a nightmare within a nightmare in Slaughter’s latest stand-alone.

Andrea Oliver’s always felt inferior to her parents. Her father, Gordon Oliver, is a trusts and estates attorney; her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist. Andy herself has never aspired to any career goal higher than serving as an assistant to someone important. Even when she left Belle Isle, Georgia, for the Big Apple, she got nowhere, and she was only too eager to return home when her mother announced three years ago that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As the two women mark Andy’s birthday by sharing lunch in a mall cafe, a crazed shooter opens fire on a mother-and-daughter pair who’ve stopped to greet Laura, and Andy’s life changes in an instant. Or rather two instants, the first when the shots ring out and the second when Laura, after inviting the killer to shoot her next, coolly and dispassionately dispatches him. It takes the dazed Andy hours to realize that her mother’s not at all who she seems to be, and by the time she’s ready to accept the fact that Laura Oliver is a woman with a past, that past is already racing to catch up with both mother and daughter. Cutting back and forth between Andy’s harrowing flight to nowhere after Laura pushes her out of her home and a backstory 30 years earlier involving the Army of the Changing World, a cell of amateur terrorists determined to strike a mortal blow against greedy capitalists and, it eventually turns out, each other as well, Slaughter (The Good Daughter, 2017, etc.) never abates her trademark intensity, and fans will feel that the story is pumping adrenalin directly into their bloodstreams. Long before the end, though, the impostures, secret identities, hidden motives, and double-crosses will have piled up past the point of no return, leaving the tale to run on adrenalin alone.

Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a season ticket on a ride that never lets you off.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243027-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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