Sturdy woman-on-the-run period intrigue with a strong rooting interest and a weak ending.

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DEATH IN FOCUS

Perry (Triple Jeopardy, 2019, etc.) kicks off her latest series by sending an English photographer who ought to know better into Nazi Germany in 1933.

Elena Standish may be four years younger than her more worldly sister, Margot, who was widowed by the Great War only a week into her marriage, but her grandfather Lucas Standish was secretly head of MI6 during the war; her isolationist father, Charles Standish, served by turns as England’s ambassador to Germany, France, and Spain; and she learned the bitter taste of betrayal from Aiden Strother, the beau who turned on both her and her country. So you’d think she’d know a thing or two about how to deal with tricky situations—and in her own way, she does. When Ian Newton, an attentive economic journalist she’s met in Amalfi, is stabbed to death during their train journey from Milan to Paris and alerts her as he’s dying that he’s an MI6 agent who’s learned of a plot to assassinate Hitler ally Friedrich Scharnhorst during a rally in Berlin, she instantly accepts the responsibility of passing on his warning to Roger Cordell at the British Embassy there. Elena has no way of knowing that Peter Howard, Lucas’ friend who’s still active in MI6, suspects Cordell of being a turncoat. Only after Scharnhorst is felled by a sniper’s bullet as Elena is snapping his picture and she returns to her hotel to find the murder weapon stashed in her wardrobe does she realize that whoever killed Scharnhorst intended to frame Ian and is now perfectly willing to frame her. Going on the run, she plunges into a dark world in which it’s impossible to know whom to trust, who’ll help her escape, and who’ll turn her over to the Gestapo. Although her adventures, which improbably continue after she’s placed under arrest, come fast enough to cause whiplash, most readers will figure out long before Elena who’s most directly responsible for her peril.

Sturdy woman-on-the-run period intrigue with a strong rooting interest and a weak ending.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-62098-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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 promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

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HOMEGOING

A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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