As usual, the characters are forgettable, the mystery perfunctory, and the solution unremarkable. But Goldsborough works a...

THE BATTERED BADGE

Nero Wolfe goes to work on behalf of the most unlikely person ever: Inspector Lionel T. Cramer, head of NYPD Homicide.

It’s not bad enough that Lester Pierce, executive director of the Good Government Group, has been gunned down in front of his Park Avenue co-op; since Pierce had been vocally critical of Cramer, the inspector’s put on administrative leave and replaced with Capt. George Rowcliff, Wolfe’s least favorite cop. It’s hard to believe that things could get worse, but they do. When Wolfe, who’d love to see Cramer, despite their differences over the years (Murder, Stage Left, 2017, etc.), back on the job, asks nonpareil operative Saul Panzer to make some discreet inquiries, they’re not discreet enough to keep Saul from getting beaten up by a pair of thugs who can’t believe this guy thought the Pierce killing could have been a mob hit. His dander up, Wolfe has his faithful legman, Archie Goodwin, make the rounds of the most likely suspects who aren’t mobbed-up: Pierce’s dry-eyed widow, Audra Kingston Pierce; their well-to-do children, Malcolm, Marianne, and Mark; Malcolm's and Mark’s wives; and Roland Marchbank and Laura Cordwell, both of whom had reason to believe they’d succeed Pierce as boss of Three–G. Long before a client willing to pay Wolfe emerges from the shadows, Cramer’s been spotted in a restaurant meeting with underworld kingpin Ralph Mars; it’s only a matter of time before news of the meeting gets out, sinking Cramer even deeper. The good news for longtime fans of Rex Stout’s corpulent detective is that Goldsborough’s Wolfe really does sound like Wolfe; the bad news is that many other characters—especially Archie, who spends most of his time on the phone with New York Gazette writer/editor Lon Cohen—sound like him, too.

As usual, the characters are forgettable, the mystery perfunctory, and the solution unremarkable. But Goldsborough works a nifty change on the climactic gathering of suspects for the big reveal that’s worth the price of admission all on its own.

Pub Date: April 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5040-4910-8

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Open Road Integrated Media

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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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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