A cinematic page-turner steeped in atmosphere and just awaiting its adaptation to miniseries.

THE SECRETARY

Having served her powerful employer at the expense of all else, a devoted secretary finds herself a pawn in her boss’s ruthless game—a betrayal that comes with consequences.

Reliable and conscientious to a fault, Christine Butcher is hired as secretary and personal assistant to Mina Appleton just as Mina is coming into power, having gently ousted her aging father from the family business. And so it is that Christine finds herself the right-hand woman to the new chair of Appleton’s Supermarkets, a chain that was once “synonymous with fair trade and good practice”—principles that don’t much interest Mina. Petite and polished—a media darling who charms the country on national TV—Mina demands total allegiance, and Christine, a workhorse who prides herself on absolute discretion, is only too happy to oblige. Catering to Mina becomes not just her duty, but her obsession; Christine serves Mina first and always, at the expense of her own family. “We flourished together, Mina and I,” explains Christine. “She, undoubtedly, the dominant species. I, like a woodland plant, able to blossom in her shade. I was good groundcover, you might say.” When Mina’s business practices become the subject of a legal investigation, Christine is there—good groundcover—assisting her, making moves that will reroute the course of her own life. “I made some questionable choices,” she reflects ominously in the novel’s opening pages. “Choices I suspect many would have made in my position.” But the power dynamic will shift: Christine, the silent, watchful, secretary, will not allow Mina’s betrayal to go unpunished—no matter the personal cost. Mina and Christine—neither quite fleshed out—seem to exist only in relation to one another; this is not a book about character but about mutual destruction. This gives the novel a somewhat flimsy quality, but what it lacks in substance it makes up for with style. Knight lays it on thick, foreshadowing the violence to come early and often, giving the book an over-the-top gothic quality; not subtle but an awful lot of fun.

A cinematic page-turner steeped in atmosphere and just awaiting its adaptation to miniseries.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-236235-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 20

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

more