Colorful information on the postwar period is combined with plenty of suspects, all neatly wrapped up in the style of a...

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A PINCH OF POISON

A titled lady and her maid work to solve a murder at a girls’ school.

World War I has come to an end, but life in England continues to change in many ways. Phoebe Renshaw, granddaughter of the Earl of Wroxly, wants more than the rich husband that still seems to be the limit of her older sister Julia’s ambition. In collecting items useful to returned veterans and their families, Phoebe’s been helped by the students at the Haverleigh School for Young Ladies, where her younger sister, Lady Amelia, is a pupil. When the headmistress, Miss Finch, drops dead over her cup of tea, chaos ensues. Luckily, Phoebe and Eva Huntford, the lady’s maid the three sisters share, are on hand to quell the panic until the police arrive. Constable Brannock and his remote chief inspector at first dismiss the incident as an accidental poisoning, but, later, the constable suspects cyanide. Miss Finch alone had been served a cake supposedly made especially for her by haughty Lady Zara, who looks down on many of her fellow students, especially the scholarship girls. Brannock, who recalls how well Phoebe and Eva worked together solving another mystery (Murder Most Malicious, 2015), is eager to benefit from their inside knowledge this time. Verity Sedgewick not only wanted Miss Finch’s job, but is suspiciously well-dressed for an assistant headmistress; the school nurse’s wartime service includes a legacy of PTSD; the garden boy is hiding secrets; and Miss Finch herself had changed Lady Zara’s marks to high ones even though everyone knew she did the least amount of work possible. The unlikely sleuthing duo uses information from both upstairs and downstairs to solve the case.

Colorful information on the postwar period is combined with plenty of suspects, all neatly wrapped up in the style of a classic mystery.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61773-834-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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