STRANGER IN THE ROOM

Bodies are piling up in Georgia and a former FBI profiler uses her sleuthing skills to solve the cases.

Williams’ second in the Stranger series once again features private investigator Keye Street, a wisecracking Krispy Kreme addict with a cop for a boyfriend and a cat for a companion, who’s tough on cars and works as a bond enforcement agent to help pay the mortgage and finance her Krispy Kreme habit. This may seem like familiar territory for Evanovich and Grafton fans who are used to witty, quirky female protagonists, but the author adds a couple of unique twists to distinguish her lead character from others: Street is a Chinese-American adoptee with a Southern drawl, a flawed past and a Ph.D. And whether she’s in Big Knob, Ga., checking out a crooked crematorium owner who substitutes cement and chicken feed in the dearly departed’s urn, or in Atlanta looking into a break-in at her cousin Miki Ashton’s home, you can bet she’s surrounded by a whole slew of quirky characters, and yes, once again it’s familiar territory. As a seemingly unconnected series of murders occurs, including a 13-year-old baseball prodigy who is strangled, an elderly man shot to death and then hanged and a young woman raped and shot, Street partners with homicide detective and boyfriend Aaron Rauser to piece together the evidence and find the killer. Hired as a consultant with the APD, Street risks her own safety as she probes into the psyche of a man with a turbulent past that’s similar to her own. While exploring dark themes, Williams manages to infuse the story with frothy, amusing situations and dialogue. When she’s in this mode, her writing is solid and snappy, and her characters deliver some delightful zingers. But the author throws an occasional curveball into the mix that just doesn’t fit into the plot.  The story works best when Williams keeps it light, unencumbered by heavy psychological and social issues.        

 

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-553-80808-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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