A confident story that keeps its plot and protagonist moving—and its readers reading.

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The First Days of August

AD HOMINEM: NEVER JUDGE A MAN BY HIS COVER

In Froning’s debut medical thriller, a neurosurgical resident joins a drug research team that stumbles on a murderous conspiracy.

Dr. Steve August is excited by the prospect of working for the Angion Corporation, a private biotech company developing a purported cure for brain cancer called Angiotox. Angion has had positive early results, but Steve’s experiments with mice lead him to speculate that the drug may be ineffective. Scientist George MacGregor, who’s Angion’s principal owner, and mobster/financier Antonio Calibri really need Angiotox to work, as a meeting with Swiss investors looms. Calibri’s thuggish henchman, Michael Riker, starts monitoring Steve and his attorney girlfriend, Morgan Najar—just in case Angion needs to ensure the neurosurgeon’s silence. This thriller is a medical mystery with the juicy bits of an espionage story. The Angiotox question soon takes a back seat to all sorts of shady goings-on. The story includes an apparent bum who seems to be shadowing Steve; a blackmailer; and James Bond–esque gadgetry, such as a “Wall-Walker” that can listen to people’s conversations and track their movements. After the Science Service, an odd gathering of scientists led by MacGregor, and government agent Winston Schmidt wiggle their ways into the story, it becomes more about Steve’s survival than exposing the truth about Angiotox. Froning offers quite a few additional subplots, and they’re often unpredictable; even the bad guys are surprised when someone sends Morgan shocking photos, for example. Steve is a solid protagonist who, at one point, endures a covert psychological assault involving sleep deprivation; his shrewd counterattack makes for a rousing turn. The villains are likewise indelible: MacGregor is frighteningly methodical, Riker is sadistic and merciless, and Calibri’s tendency to draw out his S’s (“Yesss”) is reminiscent of a hissing snake. The climax is nearly overloaded with characters, but Froning still manages to resolve things with a fantastic coda.

A confident story that keeps its plot and protagonist moving—and its readers reading.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1480813359

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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