Not without Scottoline’s customary grit and humor, but sprawling and shapeless, with a particularly unconvincing third act....

DEVIL’S CORNER

Scottoline gives the high-spirited, hard-pressed firm of Rosato & Associates a break to introduce an equally gutsy assistant U.S. attorney facing even less plausible challenges.

A phone call from confidential informant Shayla Jackson has sent Vicki Allegretti and ATF case agent Bob Morton to a grim Philadelphia neighborhood. Hugely pregnant Shayla is already dead at the appointed address, presumably killed by one Jay-Boy, who shoots Morty three times on his way out while Vicki wrestles his buddy Teeg for his Glock. Vicki manages to dial 911 as Morty’s dying, and that’s the last moment for a long time that her recklessness isn’t the lead story. Next morning, she trumps up an excuse to confront jailed Reheema Bristow, whom Shayla had fingered as the straw buyer of two guns, and nearly strangles the handcuffed prisoner in her rage. Threatened with a lawsuit for her behavior, she drives out to visit Reheema’s mother Arissa and turns her attention away from her hostess long enough to let the addled crackhead lift her wallet and totter off into the night. When Arissa is stabbed to death, the cops naturally come looking for the lawyer whose ID was found on the corpse. For reasons best known to him, Vicki’s boss doesn’t fire her, so she’s free to team up with Reheema (!) to prowl the streets in a series of rental cars looking for the killers and finding trouble. On the home front, Vicki’s self-styled best friend, her colleague Dan Malloy, is dumped by his perfect wife and falls so quickly into Vicki’s bed that you just know things aren’t going to go smoothly there either. Even after the shooter is arrested, bad things keep right on happening.

Not without Scottoline’s customary grit and humor, but sprawling and shapeless, with a particularly unconvincing third act. Bring back Bennie Rosato.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-074288-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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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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