Once again, Coburn (Voices in the Dark, 1994, etc.) uses crime as the point of departure for an examination of his troubled characters. This time, though, the crime is the crime of the century, and the canvas is uncommonly broad and rich. It all begins as a typical story of two kids from the Bronx, Rudy Farber and Joseph Shellenbach, competing for the favors of one Gretchen Krause (who says openly that she loves them both) and waiting for the big break that'll lift them out of their dead-end lives. Rolling-stone carpenter Rudy's idea of a big break is the ransom he's sure his latest client, Charles Lindbergh, will pay for the return of his son. But shortly after Rudy hatches his kidnapping plan—which will involve both Shell and Rudy's dim, honorable co-worker Bruno Richard Hauptmann as accomplices—Shell's own baby, David, dies, a casualty of his disturbed wife Helen. Aching to make Helen whole again, Shell carries out his part of the plan but adds a wrinkle by switching the children, leaving David to be found by the authorities who'll hunt down Hauptmann, and raising Charles Lindbergh Jr. as his own. The changeling can't halt Helen's slide toward twilit apathy, but he becomes the mainstay of his proud, agonized father's life. Coburn echoes Doctorow's Ragtime not only in his compounding of fiction, myth, and history, but in the syncopated, insistently metaphorical rhythms of his prose, which winnows years and decades down to mordant images as young David and his friends, echoing the fortunes of their forebears, find their bodies swelling and thrusting under their clothes, phone girlfriends or prostitutes once a week, then mark their advancing years by looking everywhere for handrails. Since nothing ever changes in Coburn's sad, dizzying view of history, it's only a matter of time—under Ronald Reagan, centrist Republican David is running for Massachusetts governor—when Shell confronts his son with the truth about his parentage. A revelation almost unbearably tender and haunting.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-81529-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1997

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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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Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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