by Alexander McCall Smith ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 28, 2020
McCall Smith’s great gift is making you shelve your genre-honed expectations and accept his people and stories as they are.
A second course of Nordic blanc for Ulf Varg and his colleagues in Malmö’s Department of Sensitive Crimes.
Now that uniformed officer Blomquist has been seconded to the DSC, Varg’s regulars—Anna Bengsdotter, whom Ulf secretly pines for; Carl Holgersson; and Erik, the clerk who fishes whenever he’s not maintaining the files—all appreciate his uncanny talent for intuiting the answers to the riddles that cross their desks. This time, Ulf will have his help in shadowing Anna’s husband, anesthetist Jo Asplund, whom she suspects of cheating on her (if only he were, thinks Ulf mournfully). It’s Ulf’s neighbor and dogsitter, Agnes Högfors, who has the honor of figuring out who’s blackmailing Nils Persson-Cederström, the Swedish Hemingway, whose partner Ulf has met in group therapy. Ulf thinks he’s the one who’ll have to decide what to do about a stolen Saab grille he’s been presented with by grateful Roma thief Viligot Danior, who thinks he owes Ulf for giving evidence against the Lutheran minister who punched Danior in the nose because he caught Danior’s son stealing his tires. But here again he’s given a miraculous bit of assistance that lets him off the hook. Fans of Ulf’s debut in The Department of Sensitive Crimes (2019) or the author’s other gently reflective franchises won’t be surprised or disappointed to learn that most of the crimes here aren’t really crimes, and Ulf’s crime-solving talents are highly questionable.McCall Smith’s great gift is making you shelve your genre-honed expectations and accept his people and stories as they are.
Pub Date: April 28, 2020
Page Count: 240
Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020
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by Kathy Reichs ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2020
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
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020
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by Benjamin Stevenson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Jan. 17, 2023
This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.
In this mystery, the narrator constantly adds commentary on how the story is constructed.
In 1929, during the golden age of mysteries, a (real-life) writer named Ronald Knox published the “10 Commandments of Detective Fiction,” 10 rules that mystery writers should obey in order to “play fair.” When faced with his own mystery story, our narrator, an author named Ernest Cunningham who "write[s] books about how to write books," feels like he must follow these rules himself. The story seemingly begins on the night his brother Michael calls to ask him to help bury a body—and shows up with the body and a bag containing $267,000. Fast-forward three years, and Ernie’s family has gathered at a ski resort to celebrate Michael’s release from prison. The family dynamics are, to put it lightly, complicated—and that’s before a man shows up dead in the snow and Michael arrives with a coffin in a truck. When the local cop arrests Michael for the murder, things get even more complicated: There are more deaths; Michael tells a story about a coverup involving their father, who was part of a gang called the Sabers; and Ernie still has (most of) the money and isn’t sure whom to trust or what to do with it. Eventually, Ernie puts all the pieces together and gathers the (remaining) family members and various extras for the great denouement. As the plot develops, it becomes clear that there’s a pretty interesting mystery at the heart of this novel, but Stevenson’s postmodern style has Ernie constantly breaking the fourth wall to explain how the structure of his story meets the criteria for a successful detective story. Some readers are drawn to mysteries because they love the formula and logic—this one’s for them. If you like the slow, sometimes-creepy, sometimes-comforting unspooling of a good mystery, it might not be your cup of tea—though the ending, to be fair, is still something of a surprise.This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.
Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Mariner Books
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022
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