Readers will surely root for this good-natured gumshoe.

READ REVIEW

A Reservation for Murder

A LIEUTENANT MORALES MYSTERY

From the Lieutenant Morales Mysteries series

The second in Basinski’s (Dead in the Water, 2015, etc.) thriller series finds returning retired cop Lt. Mario Morales cutting his vacation short when he reluctantly joins a murder investigation.

Morales hasn’t even checked into the Bonita Inn on Florida’s Palm Island when he hears about a floating cooler with pieces of a body inside. But he’s there to spend time with Sun Li, hoping their friendship will develop into something more. After several days, the local chief of police (and fellow LAPD officer back in the day), Ed Shipley, asks Morales for help finding whomever shot and killed the victim, Mark Sullivan. Morales says no thanks, but when Sun Li unexpectedly splits, a letter left as explanation, he changes his mind. Ed believes Sullivan may have found gold, an alleged batch the CIA lent to the Cuban government in the ’60s that went missing. That’s not quite as shocking as someone taking a shot at Ed and Morales, though it’s unclear which one was the target. Morales heads to his home base of Little Havana for intel from the CIA and eventually confirms that someone’s definitely trying to kill him. He gradually uncovers a web of deceit surrounding Sullivan, as well as another body, and soon worries that Sun Li didn’t leave—not willingly, at least. Basinski quickly builds sympathy for his protagonist with Morales’ undeniable devotion to Sun Li. The ex-cop is slow to start questioning people, but once he does, the case escalates. He adds a suspect or two, for example, attempting to link Sullivan to the second murder, and with credible evidence, including an insurance policy and blackmail, red herrings aren’t easy to identify. An incriminating clue near the end perhaps too conveniently points to a killer, but that doesn’t make the inevitable confrontation any less intense. Morales’ first-person narrative makes him even more endearing, describing his surroundings not like a meticulous detective but an ordinary guy; a dinner table, for example, reminds him of Sunday meals with his grandma.

Readers will surely root for this good-natured gumshoe.

Pub Date: July 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5238-6390-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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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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