Lumbering, repetitive and preachy. But the final surprise packs a punch, and the overlong courtroom sequences show how much...

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A SUNLESS SEA

Cmdr. William Monk, of the Thames River Police (Execution Dock, 2009, etc.), continues his quest to cure Victorian London of all its social ills—this time, of the horrors of unregulated opium.

No one would care tuppence about the murder of a woman Monk has trouble even identifying as Zenia Gadney, a reputed widow of uncertain means, if she hadn’t been killed in such a spectacular fashion: bashed to death, gutted and left on Limehouse Pier. But the news that the monthly visitor who paid Zenia’s household expenses for 15 years was Dr. Joel Lambourn turns the case into a hot potato. Before he was found dead in Greenwich Park, Lambourn had been conducting research into opium use on behalf of a government commission chaired by rising political star Sinden Bawtry, a commission considering the regulation of opium whose members included Barclay Herne, the husband of Lambourn’s sister, Amity. The verdict on Lambourn’s death was suicide, but Dinah, his widow, tells Monk he was murdered. Little does she know that her insistence that Monk reopen the case will lead to her own arrest for Zenia’s murder. Begging Sir Oliver Rathbone to defend her, she sets up an impossible situation: The more Rathbone learns about Lambourn’s research into the evils of opium—especially the threat of its injection directly into the bloodstream through those villainous new hollow-stemmed needles—the more difficult he realizes it will be to make a case against powerful forces deeply invested in keeping the drug freely flowing.

Lumbering, repetitive and preachy. But the final surprise packs a punch, and the overlong courtroom sequences show how much Perry’s learned about legal testimony since Cain His Brother (1995).

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-345-51064-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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