A shiny bauble of mayhem sure to please Grisham’s many fans.

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THE JUDGE'S LIST

A vigorous thriller that gets out of the courtroom and into the swampier corners of the Redneck Riviera.

Judges are supposed to dispense justice, not administer the death penalty on their own initiative. That’s just what Lacy Stoltz is up against, though. The protagonist of The Whistler (2016), she’s a jaded investigator for Florida’s Board on Judicial Conduct, which, thanks to budget cuts, is dying on the vine, “a leaderless mess.” Lacy acts on complaints, and she receives a doozy from a well-put-together Black woman who introduces herself as Margie, though she admits that's an alias. Her father, a much-respected professor of constitutional law, had retired to South Carolina and was murdered by an unknown killer. Now the coldest of cold cases, his death is a link in an evidentiary chain that only Margie—her real name is Jeri Crosby—has managed to construct. The murderer: a circuit judge sitting in Pensacola, biding his time until he can cross off the next victim on a deeply personal to-be-avenged list. Judge Bannick has more money than God and more technological goodies than Lex Luthor, but though a psycho, he puts on a good public face. Lacy is resistant at first, given that her normal brief is to investigate complaints about drunkenness or corruption, but she allows that “six murders would certainly liven up her caseload.” And then some. We don’t meet the killing judge until halfway through the book, and then he’s a model of clinical badness in a game of cat and mouse that ends in—well, a rather frothily grisly moment. As with all his procedurals, Grisham injects professorial notes on crime and justice into the proceedings: “This country averages fifteen thousand murders a year. One-third are never solved….Since 1960, over two hundred thousand.” And as ever, with one body unaccounted for, he leaves the door ajar to admit a sequel—one that, with luck, will team Lacy with the much more energetic Jeri to enact some justice of their own.

A shiny bauble of mayhem sure to please Grisham’s many fans.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54602-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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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 novel written for and about mothers but not for the faint of heart; it offers no easy answers.

THE PUSH

A finely wrought psychological study of motherhood and inherited trauma.

Blythe stands outside, watching a perfect family as they move through the small joys of their Christmas Eve preparations. She has come to deliver her written story, one that occasionally includes flashbacks to her mother's and grandmother's lives, so that she may explain to this family—her former husband, his second wife, their child, and, most of all, Blythe’s own daughter—what went wrong. The book that unfolds is this novel, and while it begins with a college meet-cute between Blythe and Fox, it truly begins with the story of Etta, who “tried very hard to be the woman she was expected to be” but battled depression that eventually led to suicide, and her daughter, Cecilia, who left altogether when Blythe was 11. Interweaving memories of her life with Fox and their daughter, Violet, with the memories and voices of these two women is meant to establish a pattern: Because she comes from a line of struggling mothers, Blythe herself could only expect to struggle as a mother, and struggle she does. Violet is a difficult baby who becomes a troubled child, but Fox sees little evidence of her problems and blames Blythe for not loving her enough. When they have a son who dies in infancy, in a terrible accident, their marriage falls apart. Blythe continues to worry for, and even fear, Violet, and then her loneliness drives her to befriend Fox’s new wife. Her delivery of the pages of her story on that frosty Christmas Eve is meant as both repentance and warning; she fears that Gemma and Fox’s son could be in danger from Violet.

A novel written for and about mothers but not for the faint of heart; it offers no easy answers.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-98-488166-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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