An unusual twist rooted in the recent horrors of World War I adds interest to a typical country-house mystery.

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A DEVIOUS DEATH

Money may be the root of all evil, but is it the motive for murder?

Julia and Phoebe Renshaw know they must make wealthy marriages to keep the estate of the Earl of Wroxley afloat. But duty is rubbing up against love, especially for Julia, the beautiful elder daughter enamored of a nobleman whose estate is near ruin. The daughters have been invited to visit their cousin Regina Brockhurst, who’s just purchased a home with the money she inherited from her father—much to the dismay of her mother, Lady Mandeville, her brother, Hastings, and his wife, Verna, who were left with little to support their pretensions. Phoebe’s trusted maid, Eva, and Julia’s sulky new maid, Miss Myra Stanley, are greeted by Regina’s dear friend Olive Asquith, whom they take for an upper-level servant. But it’s not so: Regina and Olive are making do with only a cook and her helper. Regina is mysterious about her plans for her new home, and when her unhappy relatives arrive with the family lawyer, they immediately accuse her of killing her father. The fog of enmity thickens when Regina is found dead in her bed, stabbed with the dowager’s hatpin. Phoebe and Eva, no strangers to crime-solving (A Pinch of Poison, 2016, etc.), know that the investigation will mostly be in the hands of Eva’s love, Constable Miles Brannock. Regina’s family would prefer to believe she was killed by Olive, an apparent outsider whose socialist tendencies belie her wealthy background. As they watch the family’s feeble gestures of mourning—Hastings floats around in what appears to be a whiskey-induced stupor, while his mother and wife shed no tears for Regina—the two sleuths devise a clever plan to catch the killer.

An unusual twist rooted in the recent horrors of World War I adds interest to a typical country-house mystery.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61773-838-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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