A bit messy, but perhaps required to recalibrate this deservedly popular series for future volumes.

KOPP SISTERS ON THE MARCH

After losing her dream job as Bergen County deputy sheriff, Constance Kopp regroups at a Maryland Army camp for women on the eve of World War I.

In the fifth installment of her feisty, fact-based series (Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit, 2018, etc.), Stewart throws an additional real-life figure into the fictional mix: Beulah Binford, fleeing a notorious past in Richmond and thinking that training to support the troops will be her ticket to a new life in France—if only no one recognizes her. What precisely Beulah is trying to hide is the only sort-of mystery here, and her memories leading up to that revelation form a substantial part of the novel. Though her story is fairly interesting, it does give Stewart less room for the Kopp sisters. That may be just as well, since Norma’s efforts to persuade the Army of the value of carrier pigeons is neither as interesting nor as funny as Stewart seems to think, and Fleurette’s stage-struck self-absorption is a slightly shopworn trait, though it is fun to see Beulah taking tart notice of it. Constance, who reluctantly assumes command of the camp after an injury sidelines her predecessor, dismisses the training deemed suitable for ladies as “a game” and secretly instructs a small group of equally determined women in the use of real guns. But she’s still brooding over her vanished opportunity in law enforcement, and a bit of a bore about it too, until Beulah proves the worth of her insertion into the series by forcefully (but not unsympathetically) urging Constance to make her own opportunities. A slam-bang finale mostly compensates for the fuzzy focus of this installment: Constance’s unorthodox training is triumphantly justified, and Norma wins a high-ranking ally for her pigeons. Plenty of loose ends are dangled for future volumes as Constance and Beulah both make peace with their pasts and plans to move forward.

A bit messy, but perhaps required to recalibrate this deservedly popular series for future volumes.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-73652-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more