The inevitable friction between killers with very different agendas pays off in gory scenes and tawdry revelations that...

QUARRY IN THE BLACK

Just in time to celebrate his debut on the small screen in a Cinemax series, veteran hit man Quarry (Primary Target, 1987, etc.) returns to bookstores to execute a contract on a noted civil rights leader.

He’s using the name John Blake for the assignment, but that doesn’t much matter, since Quarry’s not his real name either. And this time not even a purse of $25,000 makes him eager to pull the trigger on the Rev. Raymond Wesley Lloyd. What overcomes his scruples are his broker’s assurances that although Lloyd may have found Jesus during his prison term, he didn’t lose his affinity for drugs, which he’s now peddling to finance the St. Louis Civil Rights Coalition and, incidentally, his campaign on behalf of Sen. George McGovern’s hopeless candidacy for the presidency. Partnered again with Boyd, a facilitator whose homosexuality sparks some back and forth that seems suspiciously ahead of its time for 1972, Quarry settles with his confederate into a nondescript house also tenanted by Becky, a local waitress whom he saves from a pair of louts who paw her and who rewards him for his chivalrous rescue with unfettered access to the body she shrank from having pinched. His fling with Becky soon alerts Quarry to the unwelcome news that his client may be loathsome Cmdr. Zachary Taylor Starkweather, founder of the White Christian Freedom Party—and that the contract he’s accepted may not be the only one taken out on the target.

The inevitable friction between killers with very different agendas pays off in gory scenes and tawdry revelations that won’t shock a soul. But historical-noir specialist Collins (Better Dead, 2016, etc.) provides appropriately retro pulpy pleasures along the way.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 9781783298143

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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