Like James Lee Burke’s Louisiana, Atkins’ violent Mississippi idylls seem more and more clearly shaped as installments in an...



As if Mississippi’s Tibbehah County didn’t have enough present-day malfeasance to keep Sheriff Quinn Colson hopping, a cold case brings the customary pot of criminals and misfits to yet another boil.

Newly married to Maggie Powers, Quinn would like nothing better than to take a break from his hometown’s constant diet of organized and disorganized crime and begin adoption proceedings for Maggie’s 8-year-old son, Brandon. Not happening. His attention is demanded by another Brandon, who’s suddenly captured the imagination of Thin Air podcast reporter Tashi Coleman and her producer, Jessica Torres. They’ve made the trip down from New York at the behest of Shaina Taylor, whose brother vanished in the wilderness 21 years ago before turning up shot to death a week later. Brandon Taylor, the cold-case publicity hounds announce, has waited long enough for justice, and they aim to camp out in Tibbehah County, asking awkward questions and bedding the locals, until they’ve gotten to the truth. Does this mean that franchise villains like Fannie Hathcock, the county’s premiere supplier of sweet young female companionship, and the syndicate she’s in bed with will wither from neglect? Not a bit, because they’re all tied in to Brandon Taylor’s long-ago shooting, U.S. Marshal Lillie Virgil’s recent arrest of fugitive Wes Taggart, and the race-baiting gubernatorial campaign of state Sen. Jimmy Vardaman. When Taggart, who hints that he knows where the bodies are buried, is shot to death in his cell by a pair of hired killers who manage to infiltrate the jail, his murder raises what ought to be the pivotal question of “why his sorry ole ass was so important to the Syndicate boys.” But the furious torrent of crimes past and present and revelations about same keep any one question or plotline from rising above the fray.

Like James Lee Burke’s Louisiana, Atkins’ violent Mississippi idylls seem more and more clearly shaped as installments in an ongoing serial drama, and this one, ending with both a bang and a whimper, seems mainly intended to set up the next.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53946-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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