Think The Name of the Rose meets The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and you’re part of the way there. A reasonably good...


Latest installment in the Hangman’s Daughter series by best-selling Bavarian phenom Pötzsch.

For those unfamiliar with the series, the setup is this: A Bavarian village is missing its executioner, since he’s departed the Alps to go wandering around the Europe of the Thirty Years War–era to serve the cause of justice. Said executioner, Jakob Kuisl—based on a historical figure, an ancestor of Pötzsch’s—works in a fraught landscape. As the story opens, a piratical bunch of mercenaries, some of them nastily French, are bumping around raping and pillaging: “They sold the booty to women who followed the army in wagons peddling goods, so the gang members always had money for food, drink, and whoring.” Such acts have consequences, not just in the diminishment of German fortunes, but also in the swelling of German wombs, and by the time Kuisl is swinging into action three decades later, there are new figures on the scene as a result. One of these is Kuisl’s daughter, who finds herself tasked with saving his bacon when off in the big city, and a plot unfolds that threatens not just to end his tenure at the gallows, but also to take down the German royals. Is the head bad guy a ghost? It takes us several hundred pages to chart a career trajectory “[f]rom a mangy mercenary to a respected raftmaster,” during which time there are a respectable number of thrills, spills and pools of blood on the tile. Whatever the case, that bad guy is very bad indeed, and to the very end he argues that legitimate rape is no rape at all. Think what you will of that proposition, there’s plenty of murder, fratricide, abortion and bad rye bread to go around.

Think The Name of the Rose meets The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and you’re part of the way there. A reasonably good historical thriller but without much that makes it stand out above a crowded field.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-99219-8

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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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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