Despite hints to the contrary, the crime and the investigation are routine, and the killer is a cipher. What lingers in the...

TIME OF DEATH

DI Tom Thorne and his lover, DS Helen Weeks, return to Helen’s hated hometown in Warwickshire to confront some ugly accusations and some even uglier secrets.

Now that he’s finally found the time to take Helen away from London to the Cotswolds for Valentine’s weekend, Thorne (The Bones Beneath, 2014, etc.) is distraught to see a broadcast on the telly that has Helen packing her bags again when they’ve only just arrived. But Helen is determined to leave with or without him for Polesford, a place she has little reason to love, once she recognizes her classmate Linda Jackson as the wife of Stephen Bates, who’s accused of kidnapping two 15-year-old girls. DI Tim Cornish listens patiently as Thorne notes the circumstantial nature of the evidence against Steve, but he’s confident that they’ve got the right man banged up. So is the rest of the town, which quickly turns on Linda for standing by her man and Helen for poking her nose into their business. When searchers find the corpse of Jessica Toms, the forensic discoveries seem to tighten the noose around Steve’s neck even further. But Thorne grows more and more skeptical, and as the evidence against Steve continues to pile up, he enlists his old friend, pathologist Phil Hendricks, to poke holes in the case against Steve so that he can identify the killer, who’s devised an unusually devious way to fudge the forensics, before he can kill his second victim, Poppy Johnston, whose fate Billingham follows one heartbeat at a time.

Despite hints to the contrary, the crime and the investigation are routine, and the killer is a cipher. What lingers in the memory is the group portrait of the Polesford locals brutally closing ranks against a man they’re certain deserves to die.

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2363-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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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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