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WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS

A welcome series kickoff from a seasoned veteran.

Is an ex-con ex-cop being framed for murder a second time?

Mark’s gritty crime yarn unfolds at first in splintered pieces, lurching slowly forward in time, beginning with the morning in 1995 when Cumbrian Police Constable Wulfric Hagman wakes up in a drunken stupor, calling for his wife, Trina. His subsequent discovery of Trina’s savaged corpse is followed in short order by his arrest for her murder. The transcript of a juicy radio broadcast from the following year fills in the details of the case and describes Wulf’s conviction and lengthy prison sentence. A rambling 2001 letter from Trina’s eldest daughter, young adult Salome Delaney, presents a more sympathetic view of Wulf, who strove to block Trina’s abusiveness and act as a responsible stepfather to Sal and her several siblings. Praise is also showered on Wulf’s solicitor, Dagmara Scrowther, who fought for him and became a surrogate mother to the abandoned Delaney brood. Much more recently, an unidentified man is tortured and killed, and the killer’s final words implicate Wulf, who’s now out of prison. Unfortunately for Wulf, this victim turns out to be Barry Ford, the man Trina left him for decades ago. The story ultimately settles on Sal, now a police officer, her equally scarred brother Jarod, and their efforts to exonerate their stepfather. The first installment in a new series from the prolific author of the DS Aector McAvoy novels is masterfully plotted, teasing armchair detectives with pieces of the full murder puzzle.

A welcome series kickoff from a seasoned veteran.

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781448311996

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE COMFORT OF GHOSTS

A fitting finale to a marvelously entertaining series full of finely drawn characters often scarred by the horrors of war.

Farewell, Maisie Dobbs.

Once a maid in Lady Rowan Compton’s household, then a university student, a nurse, and an agent of the British Secret Service, Maisie has blossomed into a psychologist and private investigator. Her first husband, James Compton, died while test-flying an experimental aircraft. The end of World War II finds her living in the Dower House of the Compton estate with her second husband, Mark Scott—an American diplomat—and their adopted daughter, Anna, and comforting her former mother-in-law, Lady Rowan, who’s just lost her own spouse. When she hears there are squatters living in the Comptons’ London house, Maisie heads to Belgravia, where she finds four teenagers in residence along with an ailing Will Beale, the son of Maisie’s business partner, who survived a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Checking with her old friend DCI Robbie MacFarlane, whose help she’d asked in finding the previously missing Will, she gets a bad feeling about Robbie’s interest in the squatters. Worried about the youngsters, who were part of some secret government project, Maisie talks them into letting her into the house to help Will. When they admit they witnessed the murder of a Nazi sympathizer that the government wants covered up, she moves the group to a safer place. Her investigation of the murder discloses a mass of nasty secrets. One of the teens found a packet of letters under the floorboards of the Compton house belonging to one of Maisie’s fellow maids, killed in an explosion, who had a child with James when they were very young. Finding that child, who was put up for adoption, may be the most challenging task Maisie’s ever undertaken.

A fitting finale to a marvelously entertaining series full of finely drawn characters often scarred by the horrors of war.

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781641296069

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2024

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