Good for a nightmare or three—a taut, fast-paced thriller with wrenching twists and turns.

THE LEOPARD

Another spooky gothic by Norwegian gloomster Nesbø (The Snowman, 2011, etc.), the poet laureate of boreal psychopathy. 

If there were a dictionary-definition image for numbed world-weariness, Oslo detective Harry Hole would be it, in just the way that Edvard Munch’s The Scream is the canonical image of terror. (When the film is made, only the Stellan Skarsgård of Insomnia will do.) As Nesbø’s newest procedural opens, Hole has taken himself into a Hong Kong exile, where he ponders the smog that builds up thicker and thicker from mainland China and fills his own modest room with the smoke from his opium water pipe. Enter Kaja Solness, Oslo gumshoe extraordinaire, who needs to find him immediately. Naturally, something very ugly has happened back home; a murder bloody enough to make a Viking of yore lose his lunch has occurred, involving a cruel instrument of torture that shoots out metal spikes: “Two needles pierced the windpipe and one the right eye, one the left. Several needles penetrated the rear part of the palate and reached the brain.” Yuck. Only Hole, it seems, can divine the mind of someone sick enough to pull off such a thing, and once Hole, plagued by the memories of earlier murders and a constant craving for drink and smoke, is pulled into the case early on in the novel, it’s all a go-go-go rush across the continents: Europe, of course, and Asia, but also Africa, where an ugly war is raging off in some backwater of the Congo and where, it develops, a person of interest is conducting a nasty trade. It is vintage Nesbø to throw in red herrings and MacGuffins, but also to have Hole engage in a little John Woo–style dance, cop and suspect, in which the bad guy has a definite chance of taking out the good one. Nesbø’s formula includes plenty of participation by Kaja, a very capable woman, and plenty of current geopolitical backdrop, making Nesbø a worthy mysterian-cum-social-critic in the Stieg Larsson tradition. But will good prevail? It’s anything but a foregone conclusion.

Good for a nightmare or three—a taut, fast-paced thriller with wrenching twists and turns.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-59587-4

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2011

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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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