Ridiculous coincidence aside, this Danish sleeping pill proves thin on story.

THE VANISHED

Scandinavian noir crime fiction continues to pile up the body count in this latest by the Danish Hammer siblings.

In Copenhagen, Detective Superintendent Konrad Simonsen has returned to his position as head of the Homicide Squad after time off for a massive heart attack. He’s mending nicely but miffed: in his absence, second-in-command Arne Pedersen has taken over, and Simonsen’s on limited duty. But his first day back, a school shooting involving a boy who kills two teachers with a submachine gun and holds his classmates hostage has the Homicide Squad out trying to diffuse the situation. And that’s not all: Simonsen is also asked to look into the death of a man who was found at the bottom of his own staircase six months earlier. Although initially ruled as an accident, someone higher up wants it confirmed, and, for Simonsen, the case means a walk through the tumultuous 1960s, when the elderly detective was a young police officer. Meanwhile, the two cases improbably link up, Simonsen decides to smoke marijuana for the first time in his life, and the book wanders from clue to clue like a drunk stumbling along a sidewalk hoping each doorknob he turns will be his own. Overly long and complicated, with plot twists that lead absolutely nowhere, this novel appears to be an excuse to take Simonsen on a nostalgic trip back to his younger days of policing. Simonsen’s investigators turn over every rock in their painstaking but often dull examination of both evidence and circumstance, and the authors never fail to describe, in detail, every move the police make, even the ones that ultimately mean nothing. With stilted writing that could charitably be partially attributed to the translation and at least one prominent error relating to the submachine gun, this story’s a massive snoozer.

Ridiculous coincidence aside, this Danish sleeping pill proves thin on story.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63286-485-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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