Cornwell’s piecemeal approach to her heroine’s daunting job is more realistic than compelling.

AUTOPSY

Back in her post as Virginia’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Kay Scarpetta finds things just as messy among the living as the dead.

Even though her killer has cut off her hands, the corpse du jour is soon identified as that of Gwen Hainey, a biomedical engineer from Thor Laboratories, who just happened to live two doors down from Scarpetta’s sister, Dorothy, and her husband, ex-cop shamus Pete Marino. Called out to assist U.S. Park Police investigator August Ryan, Scarpetta, urged on by Officer Blaise Fruge—whose mother, Dr. Greta Fruge, is a toxicologist Scarpetta came to trust before she left Virginia for Boston—connects Hainey’s murder with the months-old death of Cammie Ramada, a jogger who was drowned only a short distance away. Dr. Elvin Reddy, Scarpetta’s politically minded predecessor, short-circuited the earlier investigation by ruling the death an accident even though it was highly unusual for him to get involved directly at all. As she battles Reddy, largely through Maggie Cutbush, the British secretary he left behind to undermine his successor, Scarpetta has other worries as well. In a development that will remind fans of Cornwell’s non-Scarpetta thriller Quantum (2019), she’s called to the White House to conduct what turns out to be a long-distance autopsy by proxy on a pair of astronauts aboard a Thor orbiting laboratory who’ve apparently been killed by a barrage of space debris. And she’s poisoned by a bottle of Bordeaux she was given by irreproachable Gabriella Honoré, the first female secretary general of Interpol. After the usual professional infighting, all these separate cases are wound up with a series of casual snaps that will leave you gasping, and not in a good way.

Cornwell’s piecemeal approach to her heroine’s daunting job is more realistic than compelling.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-311219-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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The story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.

A FLICKER IN THE DARK

Twenty years after Chloe Davis’ father was convicted of killing half a dozen young women, someone seems to be celebrating the anniversary by extending the list.

No one in little Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, was left untouched by Richard Davis’ confession, least of all his family members. His wife, Mona, tried to kill herself and has been incapacitated ever since. His son, Cooper, became so suspicious that even now it’s hard for him to accept pharmaceutical salesman Daniel Briggs, whose sister, Sophie, also vanished 20 years ago, as Chloe’s fiance. And Chloe’s own nightmares, which lead her to rebuff New York Times reporter Aaron Jansen, who wants to interview her for an anniversary story, are redoubled when her newest psychiatric patient, Lacey Deckler, follows the path of high school student Aubrey Gravino by disappearing and then turning up dead. The good news is that Dick Davis, whom Chloe has had no contact with ever since he was imprisoned after his confession, obviously didn’t commit these new crimes. The bad news is that someone else did, someone who knows a great deal about the earlier cases, someone who could be very close to Chloe indeed. First-timer Willingham laces her first-person narrative with a stifling sense of victimhood that extends even to the survivors and a series of climactic revelations, at least some of which are guaranteed to surprise the most hard-bitten readers.

The story is sadly familiar, the treatment claustrophobically intense.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2508-0382-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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