An often compelling, if slow-paced, excursion through exotic locales featuring unusual, complex characters.

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A MURDER IN MALTA

AN ELSPETH DUFF MYSTERY

A security adviser to a hotel magnate unravels an intricate case on the Mediterranean archipelago of Malta in this first of a planned series of mysteries.

On April 22, 2014, about a week before Malta’s scheduled entry into the European Union, Scotswoman Elspeth Duff, who works for Baron Kennington’s global hotel empire, receives bad news. Scotland Yard informs her of a disturbing electronic transmission from a known terrorist Internet site in Saudi Arabia; it refers to activity involving the Kennington’s Valletta hotel in Malta. Duff immediately flies there to investigate any potential danger. The Kennington Valletta has architectural origins in the Baroque era of the 1600s, but it’s still a model of cutting-edge high-tech security and modern efficiency. Duff begins an exhaustive investigation of possible security breaches and terrorist involvement, teaming up with the hotel manager and representatives of the Anti-Terrorism Bureau at Scotland Yard; the Public Safety and Terrorism Sub-Directorate of Interpol; and the British High Commission. Predictably, the hotel’s Muslim guests and visitors fall under suspicion, and the prime suspect is a skittish young Brit of Arab descent with an interest in local mosques who meets another young Arab off-site. Crew is savvy enough to make effective use of this red herring, and she also skillfully toys with other stereotypes—including knighted diplomats, working mothers, heroic amputees and local cabbies. Each main character has a rich back story with enough skeletons in closets to provide grist for a number of future novels. The murder of a hotel guest, the notorious writer Conan FitzRoy, happens at the same time as the terrorist threats. Ideally, this should have accelerated the story’s desultory pace, but this novel isn’t a high-stakes drama (despite the author’s use of a ticking clock), nor is it a highly intricate puzzle. In the end, the smart, stylish Duff simply relays the solution, Sherlock Holmes–style, over five final pages.

An often compelling, if slow-paced, excursion through exotic locales featuring unusual, complex characters.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1489547651

Page Count: 374

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2014

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One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

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LONG RANGE

Once again, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett gets mixed up in a killing whose principal suspect is his old friend Nate Romanowski, whose attempts to live off the grid keep breaking down in a series of felony charges.

If Judge Hewitt hadn’t bent over to pick up a spoon that had fallen from his dinner table, the sniper set up nearly a mile from his house in the gated community of the Eagle Mountain Club would have ended his life. As it was, the victim was Sue Hewitt, leaving the judge alive and free to rail and threaten anyone he suspected of the shooting. Incoming Twelve Sleep County Sheriff Brendan Kapelow’s interest in using the case to promote his political ambitions and the judge’s inability to see further than his nose make them the perfect targets for a frame-up of Nate, who just wants to be left alone in the middle of nowhere to train his falcons and help his bride, Liv Brannon, raise their baby, Kestrel. Nor are the sniper, the sheriff, and the judge Nate’s only enemies. Orlando Panfile has been sent to Wyoming by the Sinaloan drug cartel to avenge the deaths of the four assassins whose careers Nate and Joe ended last time out (Wolf Pack, 2019). So it’s up to Joe, with some timely data from his librarian wife, Marybeth, to hire a lawyer for Nate, make sure he doesn’t bust out of jail before his trial, identify the real sniper, who continues to take an active role in the proceedings, and somehow protect him from a killer who regards Nate’s arrest as an unwelcome complication. That’s quite a tall order for someone who can’t shoot straight, who keeps wrecking his state-issued vehicles, and whose appalling mother-in-law, Missy Vankeuren Hand, has returned from her latest European jaunt to suck up all the oxygen in Twelve Sleep County to hustle some illegal drugs for her cancer-stricken sixth husband. But fans of this outstanding series will know better than to place their money against Joe.

One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53823-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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