This book’s scientist protagonist is a good enough sleuth to handle a more engaging mystery.

Experiment One: Murder in the Lab

In Morin’s debut thriller, a neuroscientist starts a murder investigation after a grad student’s bludgeoned body turns up in her research lab.

A Friday afternoon faculty meeting puts professor Yvette Bilodeau so far behind that she has to spend her Saturday at the university’s laboratory. But the loss of her day off is no longer a concern after she spots the bloody corpse of her student Mike DesFleur on the lab floor. Detective Brandell Young gets the case, and he and Yvette are initially at a loss as to why someone killed Mike with an ice-breaking hammer. For one, there doesn’t appear to be anything missing from the lab. Anonymous calls to the biology department’s chairman suggest that Mike fabricated his research data and was too busy philandering to do lab work. But Yvette and Brandell, who often discuss the case, suspect the murderer was after something that Mike was working on. Later, when an unknown person pushes past Yvette one morning as she walks into the darkened lab, it seems to confirm the theory. Brandell’s investigation soon includes a second murder, and Yvette realizes that someone did indeed steal something from the lab; she branches off on her own to find the thief. The novel begins as a straight-ahead mystery; Brandell, at one point, considers each of Yvette’s students, and even Yvette herself, as viable suspects. The story reveals the identity of the murderer about halfway through, however, and even details surrounding the first death. As a result, the narrative loses some of its steam, as Yvette becomes more worried about getting access to her lab for her students’ classes. However, Morin also provides a hefty amount of perspective from a clearly disturbed psychopath, who’d probably kill more people if not maintaining a social pretense. It’s certainly fun to see whether Yvette and Brandell’s parallel investigations will merge together and single out the same perp. However, because readers are already aware of the killer’s identity and motive, the ending is a bit nondescript.

This book’s scientist protagonist is a good enough sleuth to handle a more engaging mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4917-8498-3

Page Count: 230

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2016

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

BADLANDS

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 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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