To call Mark’s novels (Taking Pity, 2015, etc.) police procedurals is like calling the Mona Lisa a pretty painting....

CRUEL MERCY

A British policeman blunders into gang warfare and worse in New York City.

DS Aector McAvoy of the Humberside Police knows what’s important to him: his wife, Roisin; their children; his boss, Trish Pharaoh; and his job. When Irish boxer Shay Helden is murdered and his coach, Brishen Ayres, badly wounded and left in a coma while on a trip to New York, the Traveler families of both men suspect rival Traveler and fellow boxer Valentine Teague, who is Roisin’s brother. Pharaoh pulls strings to get Aector sent to New York to try to prove Valentine innocent before the long-simmering differences between the Traveler families become open warfare. His NYPD liaison, Ronald Alto, has been told only that Aector has knowledge that might help with the case, but Aector opens up to him, which puts Valentine on the suspect list in New York. Since the visitors had been in New York only two days and spent most of their time at the gym in hopes of arranging a boxing match for Shay with a major promoter, the police are having trouble establishing another motive. The pair also visited Saint Colman’s church, the former parish of Father Jimmy Whelan, a popular priest now in Ireland who helped Valentine get a last-minute passport to follow Shay and Brishen. Aector’s questions attract the interest of the Italian and Russian mafias, who both have an interest in boxing, legal and otherwise. Helping the NYPD catch a sexual predator helps establish Aector with the locals, but much is still being hidden from him. Occasional chapters throughout the book reveal the thoughts of both a stone-cold Mafia hit man and a psychopathic killer whose horrific crimes may be related to both the Mafia and the church. Though he’s never imagined chatting face to face with Mafia bosses, that may be the only way he can untangle a series of murders past and present and save Valentine.

To call Mark’s novels (Taking Pity, 2015, etc.) police procedurals is like calling the Mona Lisa a pretty painting. Beautifully crafted, filled with flashbacks, horror, angst, and chilling detail, this one is his most complex and best yet.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-18511-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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