Although it packs a heavy dose of romance, Maxwell’s second entry has a creditable mystery, solved by a female detective...

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MURDER AT MARBLE HOUSE

A society reporter in 1895 Newport, Rhode Island, tries for a news byline by investigating the death of a medium.

Minutes after rejecting a proposal from handsome, wealthy Derrick Andrews for fear that his great fortune will dampen her drive to pursue a career of her own, Emmaline Cross (Murder at the Breakers, 2014) is summoned to palatial Marble House, where her cousin Consuelo is being kept a virtual prisoner by her mother. Alva Vanderbilt is beside herself because her daughter plans to throw over Charles Richard John Spencer-Churchill, ninth Duke of Marlborough, to marry Winthrop Rutherfurd, a New York gentleman of relatively modest means. To help persuade her daughter to make a better choice, Alva plans a séance with medium Eleanora Devereaux, to be attended by Alva’s suffragist friends Edwina and Roberta Spooner, Hope Stanford and Lady Amelia Beaumont. But before she can summon a single spirit, Eleanora is strangled with one of Lady Amelia’s scarves, and Consuelo disappears. Clara, a housemaid, is arrested for the murder, but Emma just knows she can’t be guilty, so she appeals to her alternate suitor, Detective Jesse Whyte. Meanwhile, she extracts a promise from her editor at the Newport Observer that if she solves the crime, he’ll make sure the print credit goes to Emma rather than her rival, Ed Billings. With the police stymied, Emma forges ahead on her own—or not quite on her own, since Derrick can’t bear to see her place herself in danger yet again without the help and guidance of a proper gentleman with proper muscles.

Although it packs a heavy dose of romance, Maxwell’s second entry has a creditable mystery, solved by a female detective who’s likable in spite of her formulaic grit and determination.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7582-9084-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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Professionally entertaining, with lots of realistically frustrating false hopes—though it’s hard to worry very much about...

NEON PREY

Lucas Davenport goes west.

But first he goes south, called from his home in Minnesota to the Louisiana swamp where hired killer Clayton Deese buried at least five people (the total is actually higher) before coming a cropper seven months ago with his latest target, Howell Paine. Things went sideways, sending Paine to the hospital and sentencing Deese to an ankle monitor he sliced through three days ago. Local FBI agent Sandro Tremanty, discovering Deese’s absence, wants help from the U.S. marshals in rounding up his quarry so that he can implicate loan shark Roger Smith, who’d hired him to hurt Paine and send a warning to his other debtors. And there’s another reason the feds would like to get Deese off the streets: His experiments in homicide have given him a taste for human flesh. Soon enough, Lucas, together with marshals Rae Givens and Bob Matees, has picked up Deese’s trail, which leads first to Marina Del Rey, where he’s joined his half brother, Marion Beauchamps, and Jayden Nast, “a guy with guns, who hates cops,” in a brutal home-invasion crew. Conscientious detective work brings Lucas and the LAPD within a whisker of catching Deese, but he slips away from them and heads to Las Vegas with Genesis Cox, the blonde he’s picked up, and John Rogers Cole, another accomplice. Deese and his cohort must constantly pull new jobs to support their gambling and drug habits, and it’s hard to imagine their eluding the law for very long. But there are deeper threats to their racket. Roger Smith, who knows plenty about Deese, realizes he has every reason to get rid of him, and there turns out to be no honor among the thieves closer to home either.

Professionally entertaining, with lots of realistically frustrating false hopes—though it’s hard to worry very much about the leading question here: Will the franchise hero (Twisted Prey, 2018, etc.) succeed in bringing the crooks to justice before they wipe each other off the face of the Earth?

Pub Date: April 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53658-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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