Nothing new or very interesting in this rehashing of rumors surrounding Monroe’s death, even for those who were around when...


Collins resurrects hard-boiled private eye Nathan Heller in this celebrity-studded take on Marilyn Monroe’s death in August 1962.

Heller, a Chicago-based private eye and celebrity magnet, is in California doing what he does best: hobnobbing with the rich, famous and notorious. One of those just happens to be the infamous sex goddess Monroe, who has hired Heller to tap her own phone. She has been feuding with her studio over a movie that shut down while filming, supposedly as a result of the actress’s instability. She’s afraid the studio is pinning the movie’s failure to launch on her and wants the tapes as protection, but Heller finds out there’s many more people interested in Monroe’s private conversations besides studio bigwigs, including, but not limited to, the Kennedys, Frank Sinatra, J. Edgar Hoover, Jimmy Hoffa, Joe DiMaggio and some of the biggest and most notorious gangsters during Monroe’s time. Heller gets curious and starts piecing together the web in which Monroe has gotten herself caught and finds that very powerful men are very, very afraid of what the slightly unstable, but very beautiful, young woman might be planning. Then, when she turns up dead, Heller believes a cover-up is underway and starts working to prove it. Collins writes the hard-boiled detective genre with a perfect ear, but his Heller is a tiresome name-dropper who has been involved in every event of historical importance in the proceeding 35 years, including Hugh Hefner’s purchase of the Playboy Mansion and the Bay of Pigs. Driving his white Jag, wearing his Botany 500 suits and stuffing his Ray-Bans in his pocket, Heller has sex with Monroe, gives advice to Bobby Kennedy and trades insider jokes with the Rat Pack. The author says he did a lot of research for the book, but sometimes the narrative reads more like a series of encyclopedia entries than fiction, and the character of Heller simply isn’t charming or interesting enough to rate so much attention from high-rollers.

Nothing new or very interesting in this rehashing of rumors surrounding Monroe’s death, even for those who were around when she died.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2179-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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...


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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