Tied together by bird sightings, both the main characters spend page after page contemplating what they’ve seen, said and...

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PATH OF NEEDLES

The death of a young girl brings together a dull female police officer and an equally dull professor who specializes in sorting through classic versions of fairy tales in Littlewood’s lackluster sophomore effort.

When the body of 15-year-old Chrissie Farrell is found after PC Cate Corbin has taken a missing persons report from her mother, Angie, police are stymied to see that the girl’s body has been theatrically arranged. The blonde Chrissie had been crowned queen of a dance she’d attended at school and still wore that crown in death, but someone had also staged her body to resemble Snow White. Angie had received a strange package earlier in the day that revealed a bottle of what appeared to be blood, stoppered by one of her daughter’s toes. In observing the body, Cate’s reminded of the fairy tale and goes seeking Alice Hyland, the professor, who earlier that day had spotted an oddly menacing and out-of-place solid blue bird. As birdwatchers stalk the area searching for the rare bird, additional bodies turn up, also in the guise of fairy tales. Cate and Alice follow the trail, trying to find the killer before he or she strikes again. Billed as both a crime and horror novel, Littlewood reprises the flat, monotone voice she affected in her first book (A Cold Season, 2013). Neither Cate nor Alice nor any of the book’s characters come across as memorable, and readers looking for suspense will be less caught up in wondering when the killer’s next victim will surface than they will be waiting for whatever character Littlewood has on deck to finish the interminable thoughts that string together the much-too-infrequent action. 

Tied together by bird sightings, both the main characters spend page after page contemplating what they’ve seen, said and done, making for a frustrating story that will please neither fans of crime nor fans of horror.

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62365-855-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Jo Fletcher/Quercus

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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