Expect the ending to make you squirm, though you have to admire Camilleri’s ability to disarm horror with his particular...


When you’re a loan shark with an open liking for younger women, the occasional death threat maybe isn’t so alarming.

After finding his father dead, Arturo Barletta is quick to open up about the late Cosimo Barletta’s collection of enemies as well as young lovers. Which, to Inspector Montalbano’s dismay, means that the list of potential murderers is a long one. Hacking away at that list should be top priority, but a man is only human, and distractions pile up for Montalbano: Cosimo’s beautiful daughter, Giovanna, seems intent on gaining his full attention during the investigation, and, at home, a well-spoken vagabond with a mysterious past has made his acquaintance. Montalbano also makes the mistake of mentioning this man to his long-term partner, Livia, who insists on regular updates. A thorough search of Cosimo’s home reveals that he enjoyed keeping records of death threats made against him as well as X-rated photographs of the women he slept with. When blonde hairs are found in Cosimo’s bed, Montalbano hopes to use the photographs to find a match—and that leads him to Stella Lasorella. Of course, she insists she wasn’t there the night of the murder. She also paints a very disturbing picture of her ex-lover—one of manipulation, blackmail, and worse. Cosimo might have felt rich and powerful enough to stay in control, but the details of his murder, as well as one intimate set of letters, suggest he had a weakness. The investigation is not without its humorous moments—the photographs have an overwhelming effect on the poor men who must study them—which are classic for Camilleri (The Revolution of the Moon, 2017, etc.), but it also brings out a vulnerable side to our steadfast investigator. The mind games Montalbano plays with Giovanna will keep the pages turning, and as the more disturbing layers of the case are revealed, even Montalbano is moved to introspection: “His was loneliness crowded by all his colleagues in the police department, but it was still loneliness.”

Expect the ending to make you squirm, though you have to admire Camilleri’s ability to disarm horror with his particular charm; the town of Vigàta quietly soldiers on.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-14-312665-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.


Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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