Rousing period pulp for those who miss the ’80s or the glory days of men’s magazines a generation earlier.

KILLING QUARRY

Professional killer Quarry’s 1980s midlife career change to selling potential targets the ultimate protection from the people who’ve marked them for death comes a cropper in a way that would be unusual for anyone but him.

Double-crossed by his longtime handler, the Broker, Quarry (Quarry’s Climax, 2017, etc.) has executed him and taken the extensive list of contract killers whose services he handles. Intent on monetizing the list, which is definitely worth serious coin, but unwilling to take the Broker’s place as just another middleman, he comes up with the idea of choosing random names from the list, stalking them until he figures out whom they’ve staked out themselves, and then telling the marks they’ve been targeted and offering to take out their killers for a price. This new regimen works fine, at least according to the standards of murder for hire, until Quarry gets on the scent of Bruce Simmons, a hit man whose target is Quarry himself. A face-off between the two businessmen ends with Simmons predictably dead, shot by Lu, his partner in crime, who years ago had a brief fling with Quarry but hasn’t seen him since. After Quarry’s disposed of the body, showered to get rid of the blood and brains, he has sex with the beauteous Lu, who reveals that her own handler, the Envoy, is the client who hired her and Simmons to kill Quarry. Why would someone target an inoffensive hit man who’s now switched to killing only his own kind, along with the inevitable collateral damage? The answer awaits at a very, very exclusive investment conference at the Lake Geneva Golf and Ski Resort, which just happens to be run by Quarry’s poker buddy Dan Clark—an event at which discussions of high finance will take a back seat to sound and fury.

Rousing period pulp for those who miss the ’80s or the glory days of men’s magazines a generation earlier.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78565-945-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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