THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

An enthralling but messy mystery about risks and community.

A Massachusetts shore town museum director gets caught in a Byzantine murder plot in this LGBTQ+ novel.

Perched at the very end of Cape Cod, Provincetown is a haven for transplants and runaways of all stripes. It is also the location of HomePort Estate, the mansion-turned–artist colony set atop a giant sand dune. It is on the estate that the well-intentioned but friendless widow C.J. Strongue, a relative newcomer to the area, is found electrocuted in the studio of renowned local artist Mavis Chandry. A death on the property is the last thing that Helena Handbasket—the current inhabitant of the HomePort mansion, executive director of the estate, and “full-time female impersonator”—needs on her plate, especially when the scene of the crime is so unsettling: “The gaunt figures on the canvases scattered about the room looked like ghostly witnesses, while Mavis’s empty easel resembled a blood-spattered instrument of torture. Amid all this, C.J.’s straw sunhat looked glaringly out of place.” Helena is just about to open a new museum on the estate featuring an exhibition containing dozens of Mavis’ works. When the show is vandalized shortly before the grand opening, it becomes clear that someone is targeting Mavis and that poor C.J. happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What’s more, Mavis is quick to accuse Helena of being the one who wants her dead—a charge that the local police are happy to indulge. Helena finds herself at the center of a murder case as strange as any the Outer Cape has ever seen: one involving stolen art, secret lovers, and some grade-A impersonating. But can Helena save everything she and her friends have built, or will it all be swept away like fishing boats in a sudden storm?

In this sequel, Burch summons Provincetown’s eclectic, art-and-barnacles ethos with an eye for detail and plenty of campy humor. (At one point, Helena explains to Det. Amy Morgan that she was wearing her “life breasts” when she fell off a boat. “ ‘Life breasts?’ Amy asked, her head tilted to one side. ‘A special set of fake boobs that double as a flotation device.’ ”) The almost-400-page book is far too long given that there’s really only enough plot for 200. It often seems as though the author couldn’t decide whether to write a genre mystery or something more literary, and the resulting story moves a bit too slowly to hold many readers’ interest. But the characters are numerous and uniformly engaging, and Burch deftly explores many of the paradoxes of Provincetown: the tensions between townies and “washashores”; the wealthy and the broke; straights and gays; and female impersonators and everybody else. Readers who make it all the way through will do so because the author has created a world worthy of hanging around in. At a certain point, the plot becomes secondary to the peculiar spell Burch weaves with Helena and her milieu.

An enthralling but messy mystery about risks and community.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 9781734053395

Page Count: 409

Publisher: HomePort Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2023

THE ATLAS MANEUVER

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Cotton Malone, who just can’t stay retired from international intrigue, joins the mad dance of competitors for a fortune in bitcoin.

So many people have forgotten about the horde of gold the retreating Japanese hid on Luzon Island in the Philippines that it’s not at all clear who has legal title to it. That’s perfect for Robert Citrone, the retired CIA overseer of the Black Eagle Trust, which has used the gold to fund covert operations around the world. Just as Derrick Koger, the European station chief for the CIA, is pulling Malone away from his Copenhagen bookstore to help him investigate possible misdeeds swirling around Luxembourg’s Bank of St. George and its ruthless chief operating officer, Catherine Gledhill, other interested parties turn up in often surprising connections. Freelance assassin Kyra Lhota executes Armenian oligarch Samvel Yerevan and moves on to her next target. Malone’s sometime lover Cassiopeia Vitt is snatched by high-ranking Japanese security chief Aiko Ejima. His former lover Suzy Baldwin resurfaces as Kelly Austin, BSG’s director of special technology, who’s concealing secrets from Malone and the rest of the world. They’re all on the trail of a fabulous cache of bitcoin that in the absence of any legal records of ownership will belong, like the Luzon gold, to anyone who can track it down and grab it. The grandly scaled complications that follow feature countless broken alliances and the deaths of a fearsome number of nonfranchise characters. An extended author’s note explains what’s historically accurate (quite a bit, as it turns out) and what’s fabricated (quite a bit more).

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9781538721032

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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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