Every bit as entertaining as it is sophisticated and elusive.

READ REVIEW

THE GRAND COMPLICATION

The search for an antique pocket watch animates a surprisingly dramatic battle of wits and wills, in an engaging intellectual thriller, only the second novel from the formidably gifted author of the 1992 critical success A Case of Curiosities.

Narrator Alexander Short, a toiler in the reference department of the New York Public Library, finds his placid life interrupted one day by a dapper elder patron improbably named Henry James Jesson III. Jesson is an art collector and independent scholar with an agenda, for which he enlists Alexander’s investigative skills: the recovery of an (initially unidentified) object missing from an elegant wooden cabinet (another “case of curiosities,” as it happens) in his possession. Over the objections of his French wife “Nic” (who just barely registers as a presence in the story), Alexander is lured into Jesson’s web, consulting such odd people and institutions as a cupiditous watchmaker, a “curator of Judaica,” and a scholarly plutocrat’s Arcade of Obsolescence—discovering that what he seeks is a timepiece created for Marie Antoinette (and named, coincidentally, “The Grand Complication”). The intricacies multiply exponentially, in a deliciously mazelike house of fiction containing innumerable trapdoors, hidden compartments, and mutually reflecting mirrors—and Kurzweil takes it to a whole new level when Alexander begins to suspect he is not just Boswell to Jesson’s Johnson but, quite possibly, his employer’s creation: the unwilling protagonist of a story Jesson is telling to himself. This exuberantly brainy tale is further distinguished by a plethora of quaint and curious lore (relating to heraldry, horology, French history, library science, and miscellaneous arcana) and by suggestive echoes of both Oliver Twist and the Humbert-Quilty climactic confrontation in Lolita. And Kurzweil’s ineffably witty dialogue reads like the rich, strange fruit of an inspired collaboration between Henry James and Oscar Wilde.

Every bit as entertaining as it is sophisticated and elusive.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2001

ISBN: 0-7868-6603-9

Page Count: 360

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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