Too many views of the killer at work and not enough actual mystery. But no one currently working the British scene tops...

THE DYING HOURS

DI Tom Thorne, back in uniform after his last round of insubordination, goes even further off the rez in his attempts to prove that a series of suicides was something else.

John and Margaret Cooper didn’t leave a note when they topped themselves; the bottle of insulin they used didn’t carry a prescription label; and Margaret had removed her dentures, as if she were merely going to sleep. But those telltale signs don’t persuade DI Paul Binns or DCI Neil Hackett that the Coopers might have been murdered. Since nobody will listen to him, Thorne signs off on the official findings and then goes off on his own—first during his free time, then on manufactured sick days—to find more compelling evidence that they’re wrong. For better or worse, evidence of a sort keeps coming in. The earlier suicides of Brian Gibbs and Fiona Daniels look equally suspicious, and more victims soon follow, each of them clearly (at least to Thorne’s mind) coaxed or forced into killing themselves. The breakthrough comes when Thorne, sneaking behind the back of DS Helen Weeks, the lover he’s been more or less living with ever since he saved her life (The Demands, 2012), links all the elderly victims to a 30-year-old case. But even when he’s satisfied himself of the killer’s motive and identity, Thorne still can’t find any evidence that changes Hackett’s mind, and the harder he tries, the more he risks getting booted off the force for good.

Too many views of the killer at work and not enough actual mystery. But no one currently working the British scene tops Billingham for mordant intensity, whether Thorne is surveying the latest scene of an apparent suicide or just trying to explain why he called in sick.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2148-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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