As for Columbus, it comes across much like other Midwestern cities in noir stories, which may be the point.

The latest stage in Akashic’s master plan to paint the world black is marked by 14 new stories whose most appealing features are their come-hither titles and the different shades of noir they invoke, from light gray to pitch black.

The hallmark here is competent but unspectacular professionalism that ticks all the boxes but originality. Sex fuels the plots of Robin Yocum’s “The Satin Fox,” in which a vice cop’s romance with a junkie stripper is threatened by blackmail; Kristen Lepionka’s “Gun People,” in which a wife takes up with one of the contractors upgrading the place her accountant husband has purchased; Craig McDonald’s “Curb Appeal,” which follows a woodworker’s romance with an interior decorator to its all-too-logical end; Mercedes King’s “An Agreeable Wife for a Suitable Husband,” whose ill-assorted title couple plot to rid themselves of each other; Julia Keller’s “All That Burns the Mind,” in which an Ohio State University English teacher finds a sadly predictable way of dealing with two problem students; and Khalid Moalim’s “Long Ears,” whose heroine learns a great deal about an ancient accident and a present-day murder but keeps mum. None of the entries excels editor Welsh-Huggins’ “Going Places,” in which a rising politician’s wife and fixer collude to shelter him from the consequences of his peccadilloes; the nearest competitors are Chris Bournea’s “My Name Is Not Susan” (a retired football player’s lover is suspected when he and his wife, the lover’s friend, are murdered), Tom Barlow’s “Honor Guard” (a chronically disappointing son negotiates frantically to keep his father out of prison after an argument with a stranger turns deadly), and Daniel Best’s “Take the Wheel” (a tawdry, fast-moving tale of a pair of frenemies whose partnership in a coffee shop is threatened by some lethally laced heroin). The newly arrived Chinese student in Nancy Zefris’ darkly comic “Foreign Study” manages to stumble through town without occasioning a single felony, and Laura Bickle’s “The Dead and the Quiet,” Lee Martin’s “The Luckiest Man Alive,” and Yolanda Tonette Sanders’ “The Valley” are notable for their closing intimations of grace, that rarest of qualities in noir.

As for Columbus, it comes across much like other Midwestern cities in noir stories, which may be the point.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61775-765-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019


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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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