A likable recurring hero fronts a brisk but sometimes-confusing detective story.



From the Lieutenant Morales Mystery series , Vol. 3

A former cop must find the culprit who brutally assaulted his wife in this third installment of a thriller series.

Lt. Mario Morales is head of security on the cruise ship the Mardi Gras. He spends his downtime with his wife of seven months, Sun Li, who’s also a ship employee. One night, Morales awakens in the couple’s cabin to find a masked individual beating Sun Li. The assailant dazes Morales with a blow to the head before escaping, although no passenger sees anyone run from the room.  Sun Li’s injuries are so severe that the Coast Guard picks her up for transportation to a trauma hospital. When the ship finally returns to the Miami home port, local police take over the investigation. But they surprisingly arrest Morales and charge him with attempted murder. Morales’ new lawyer, Rick Chopin, gets him out on bail but the ex-cop doesn’t plan on sitting around. Prior to his arrest, he’d surmised the attack had ties to Shanghai Blue, the company where Sun Li once worked, which Morales learned was a front for illicit deeds. He’ll most likely have to head to China if he hopes to identify his wife’s attacker. Basinski (A Reservation for Murder, 2016, etc.) knows how to keep his plot moving. Smoothly transitioning perspectives from Morales and Chopin showcase two distinctive investigations, as the attorney is less assertive than the experienced former cop. The author moreover sets a stellar pace with short chapters and concise dialogue. There’s only a modicum of mystery, although Morales stumbles onto an apparent conspiracy and discovers a shocking secret about Sun Li. But a few elements of the tale are a bit bewildering. For example, at one point, Morales is certain he watches an individual die, only for the character to turn up alive later; it’s not clear, even by the end, how exactly that came about.

A likable recurring hero fronts a brisk but sometimes-confusing detective story.

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-981243-14-3

Page Count: 204

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 10, 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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