Cleeves’s keen sense of the seasonal rhythms of Shetland life and her vivid descriptions of its terrain satisfy like a peaty...

WHITE NIGHTS

Village murders unveil lives far from simple in this second installment in a quartette of Shetland thrillers by Cleeves (Raven Black, 2007, etc.).

Summer does not becalm the Shetland island villagers of Lerwick and Biddista. White nights, when darkness at this high northern latitude becomes a brief, passing shadow, roil sleep, leaving folks restless and edgy. Cleeves finds them tossing and turning, contemplating love lost and, perhaps someday, love regained. Tensions rise at an exhibit of local art at the Herring House, a gallery owned by wealthy, flamboyant and intimidating Bella Sinclair. Looking at some of the paintings, a distraught stranger falls to his knees weeping. Speaking to island inspector Jimmy Perez, the man claims not to know his name or his reason for coming to the island. The next morning, a villager finds the visitor in a shed, hanged, a clown mask on his face. Perez suspects, and a doctor confirms, the man did not commit suicide but was murdered. Perez brings onto the case Roy Taylor, a senior investigator from Inverness. But Perez constantly upstages Taylor, tracking apparent leads with his native’s instinct for village life. Did the murder have anything to do with the unsolved disappearance of a man’s brother? Was the motive bitterness over an affair? Or anger over a harsh critique of a painting? Likely as these motives seem, they fail to link the murdered outsider to the tangled histories of four local families. Perez is further confounded when someone discovers at the shoreline the lifeless body of Roddy Sinclair, his head smashed against a boulder. Was Roddy, Bella’s manipulative nephew and a fiddler with a rock star’s fame, part of the imbroglio confronting Perez? The detective’s answer cuts deep.

Cleeves’s keen sense of the seasonal rhythms of Shetland life and her vivid descriptions of its terrain satisfy like a peaty Highland dram, sipped slowly.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-38433-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2008

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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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

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