“I have a tendency, I’m afraid, to think at a bit of a tangent,” the heroine confesses. Like-minded readers will fasten onto...

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A DISTANT VIEW OF EVERYTHING

Edinburgh philosopher Isabel Dalhousie’s cases (The Novel Habits of Happiness, 2015, etc.) keep getting slighter and slighter. But her exceptionally well-titled 11th may be the slenderest of them all.

Beatrice Shandon has a problem. At one of the dinner parties in which she constantly seeks to mingle friends who already know each other with new people from outside their circle, she introduced Constance Macdonald, an acquaintance who’d been pressing for an invitation, to plastic surgeon Tony MacUspaig. Connie took instantly to Tony, but Bea now has reservations. More than reservations: she suspects that Tony may be a psychopath with a history of romancing wealthy women in order to extract money from them. Bea’s no good at all at working out problems like this; could Isabel, her old school friend, help? With an alacrity that puts Connie’s monumentally hesitant statement of the case to shame, Isabel agrees. Soon she’s chatting with Rob McLaren, the dinner guest who knew Tony from St. Andrews University; with Tony’s ex-girlfriend Andrea Murray, who reportedly attempted suicide after their breakup; and with his more recent friend Tricia Ferguson, who gave him 50,000 pounds from the trust fund her husband left her. But these inquiries don’t drive the story. Much more important are interludes in which Isabel reads letters to the editor of the Scotsman, offers money to a stranger whose bicycle has just been wrecked by a charging dog, and chats about this and that with Tricia Ferguson’s lawyer, who seems to have come to his office specifically in hopes that this irresistibly engaging conversationalist will drop in. Significantly, neither Connie Macdonald nor Tony MacUspaig ever appears in person.

“I have a tendency, I’m afraid, to think at a bit of a tangent,” the heroine confesses. Like-minded readers will fasten onto her latest plot-seasoned ruminations as manna from heaven.

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-307-90894-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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