A rollicking, cozy escapade, too lighthearted to call Tartan noir.

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A SMALL DEATH IN THE GREAT GLEN

In the 1950s, the murder of a boy shocks a Scottish town still reeling from the devastations of World War II and rife with resentment of outsiders. This is the first book in a suspense series set in the Scottish Highlands, where the author was born and raised.

The daughters of Joanne Ross, typist for The Highland Gazette, mischievously ring doorbells and run, but when they coax little Jamie to play their game, he disappears and later turns up dead. The coroner’s examination shows that the boy had been “interfered with” prior to death. Meanwhile, visions of a hoodie crow, a nightmarish, folkloric figure said to peck out the eyes of newborn lambs, haunt Joanne’s youngest. It seems her daughters were the last to see “wee Jamie.” Indeed, their imaginations have created the crow from the shadowy figure they saw take their classmate. The night of the murder, a Pole jumped ship in the harbor and was aided by a Polish immigrant engaged to the daughter of a local Italian immigrant family, as well as by the Tinkers, the traveling people of Scotland, used to being regarded with suspicion. Prejudice and xenophobia make the Pole the prime suspect, and it appears he’ll be condemned on circumstantial evidence. This doesn’t sit well for several Highland Gazette staffers, especially veteran journalist McAllister. McAllister indulges his hunches, journalistic and otherwise, to turn up another suspect, the town priest who ran a boxing club for boys back in Glasgow. Meanwhile, Joanne, coping with an abusive, alcoholic spouse, tries to make sense of her youngest daughter’s terrified outbursts at the sight of any resemblance to the hoodie crow, outbursts that appall the religiously stolid townies. By the time Joanne and McAllister realize the girls actually are critical witnesses, they’ve clammed up. The story is a twisted tangle with sometimes unsubstantiated forensics, and it’s a bit of a stretch that the girls’ status as important witnesses goes largely ignored. But this mystery is a delight to unravel, with its lively dialect-spouting players, inhabiting a lavishly described, forbidding but beautiful landscape.

A rollicking, cozy escapade, too lighthearted to call Tartan noir.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4391-5493-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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