The broad style leaves little room for nuance, though it’s not always clear whether that’s a choice on the part of the...

POISONED PAGES

Murder and misgivings surround a small-town bookseller who teams up with her sister to prove that she’s not a jinx.

As he’s sentenced for murder, Bob Kelly turns to star witness Tricia Miles and declares her a jinx, simultaneously cursing her and blaming her for his crime. The name-calling may be cruel, but Bob’s far from the first person to notice Tricia’s tropism to homicide (A Just Clause, 2017, etc.). Maybe that’s why one plank in the platform for her Chamber of Commerce presidential candidacy is making Stoneham a safer place, along with winning the title of Prettiest Village in New Hampshire. Tricia should be a shoo-in for the presidential role. The incumbent is her sister, Angelica, who’s been trying to coach Tricia into success at their daily lunches at Angelica’s restaurant, Booked for Lunch, and dinners at each other’s homes. But Tricia has some trouble on the campaign trail that’s exacerbated when a cocktail party at her bookstore, Haven’t Got A Clue, ends with the death of Angelica’s former colleague Frannie Armstrong’s date. Chief of Police Grant Baker, Tricia’s ex, rolls his eyes at the news of Tricia’s proximity to another murder; a similar lightness attends others who don’t make it through the story without having “bought the farm.” Russ Smith, another ex, complicates her life by throwing his own hat into the presidential ring. Though he’s moved on from Tricia, he harbors hope for their future and shows it through bullying, threats, and intimidation. Worse still, Marshall Cambridge, the proprietor of the local porn bookshop, has turned his attentions to Tricia. As she tries to focus on her campaign and the dramatic news that Angelica is being blackmailed, it becomes clear that someone’s trying to vandalize her store and maybe even hurt her.

The broad style leaves little room for nuance, though it’s not always clear whether that’s a choice on the part of the author or a heroine she seems to hold in high regard for reasons that remain mysterious.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-48983-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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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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