The creaking dialogue and halting, step-by-step-by-step deductions, which guarantee a glacial pace, will keep most of the...

THE FEMALE DETECTIVE

The latest reprint in the British Library Crime Classics is one of the earliest: a cycle of stories about a London detective first published in 1864, here introduced by Alexander McCall Smith, who ventures general remarks about female detectives, and Mike Ashley, who supplies some uncommonly informative historical background.

Even her closest friends think she’s a milliner, but Miss Gladden—not her real name, but “the name I assume most frequently while in my business” —can look back with pride on her secret career as a professional inquiry agent with a subtly shifting relationship to the Metropolitan Police. In “The Unknown Weapon,” her inquiries help the police discover who murdered young squire Graham Petleigh in his father’s manor house. In “The Judgment of Conscience,” she’s able to set the police straight about a lower-class romantic triangle that ends in tragedy. In “Tenant for Life,” her unofficial investigation, launched when she overhears a friend’s chance remark to her cabman husband about “Little Fourpenny Number Two way,” uncovers a plot to defraud the legal heir of a sizable estate. And her only role in the fact-based “A Child Found Dead: Murder Or No Murder” is to introduce a doctor friend who introduces his own childhood friend, Hardal, who does the sleuthing honors when a young boy taken from his bed is found dead nearby. “Georgy” ruefully recounts a blithe embezzler’s success in eluding both his conscience and any legal consequences of his theft. The most strikingly modern notes struck throughout all the stories, in fact, are Miss Gladden’s frequent failure to bring wrongdoers to justice and her regrets over the outcomes of her cases.

The creaking dialogue and halting, step-by-step-by-step deductions, which guarantee a glacial pace, will keep most of the curious at bay; this is no overlooked gem. But feminists and historical completists, the most likely readers to persevere, will find themselves amply rewarded by detective tales that more often focus on how and why than whodunit.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 9781464206474

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

FLESH AND BLOOD

Happy birthday, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. But no Florida vacation for you and your husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley—not because President Barack Obama is visiting Cambridge, but because a deranged sniper has come to town.

Shortly after everyone’s favorite forensic pathologist (Dust, 2013, etc.) receives a sinister email from a correspondent dubbed Copperhead, she goes outside to find seven pennies—all polished, all turned heads-up, all dated 1981—on her garden wall. Clearly there’s trouble afoot, though she’s not sure what form it will take until five minutes later, when a call from her old friend and former employee Pete Marino, now a detective with the Cambridge Police, summons her to the scene of a shooting. Jamal Nari was a high school music teacher who became a minor celebrity when his name was mistakenly placed on a terrorist watch list; he claimed government persecution, and he ended up having a beer with the president. Now he’s in the news for quite a different reason. Bizarrely, the first tweets announcing his death seem to have preceded it by 45 minutes. And Leo Gantz, a student at Nari’s school, has confessed to his murder, even though he couldn’t possibly have done it. But these complications are only the prelude to a banquet of homicide past and present, as Scarpetta and Marino realize when they link Nari’s murder to a series of killings in New Jersey. For a while, the peripheral presence of the president makes you wonder if this will be the case that finally takes the primary focus off the investigator’s private life. But most of the characters are members of Scarpetta’s entourage, the main conflicts involve infighting among the regulars, and the killer turns out to be a familiar nemesis Scarpetta thought she’d left for dead several installments back. As if.

No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232534-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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THE BLACK ECHO

Big, brooding debut police thriller by Los Angeles Times crime-reporter Connelly, whose labyrinthine tale of a cop tracking vicious bank-robbers sparks and smolders but never quite catches fire. Connelly shows off his deep knowledge of cop procedure right away, expertly detailing the painstaking examination by LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch of the death-scene of sometime junkie Billy Meadows, whom Bosch knew as a fellow "tunnel rat" in Vietnam and who's now o.d.'d in an abandoned water tunnel. Pushing Meadows's death as murder while his colleagues see it as accidental, Bosch, already a black sheep for his vigilante-like ways, further alienates police brass and is soon shadowed by two nastily clownish Internal Affairs cops wherever he goes—even to FBI headquarters, which Bosch storms after he learns that the Bureau had investigated him for a tunnel-engineered bank robbery that Meadows is implicated in. Assigned to work with beautiful, blond FBI agent Eleanor Wish, who soon shares his bed in an edgy alliance, Bosch comes to suspect that the robbers killed Meadows because the vet pawned some of the loot, and that their subsequent killing of the only witness to the Meadows slaying points to a turned cop. But who? Before Bosch can find out, a trace on the bank-robbery victims points him toward a fortune in smuggled diamonds and the likelihood of a second heist—leading to the blundering death of the IAD cops, the unveiling of one bad cop, an anticipated but too-brief climax in the L.A. sewer tunnels, and, in a twisty anticlimax, the revelation of a second rotten law officer. Swift and sure, with sharp characterizations, but at heart really a tightly wrapped package of cop-thriller cliches, from the hero's Dirty Harry persona to the venal brass, the mad-dog IAD cops, and the not-so-surprising villains. Still, Connelly knows his turf and perhaps he'll map it more freshly next time out.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 1992

ISBN: 0-316-15361-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1991

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