BONE IN THE THROAT

Manhattan chef-turned-fiction-writer Bourdain pens a first novel about murder and the Mob that makes a fair appetizer but no main course. Tommy is the second chef at the Dreadnaught Grill. His father was a made-guy with the Mob, but Tommy has managed to keep clear of any ``family'' entanglements. Harvey, who owns the Dreadnaught, owes big money to Tommy's uncle, a hit man named Sally who's also a loan shark. Harvey is weeks behind on his interest payments, with Sally applying lots of muscle. What Sally doesn't know, however, is that the Dreadnaught is a federal sting operation designed to snare racketeers like him. Sally approaches Tommy for a ``favor'': He wants to use the restaurant as a meeting place. Tommy eventually agrees, only to watch Sally and a friend murder and then dismember a man. Now Tommy is in way deep, and just in time for the feds to take a serious interest in him. They want his testimony on the murder, but Tommy can't narc on a relative—especially one who's a homicidal animal. Pressured by both sides, he also feels guilty over the murder. All of this could be compelling enough—if the book wasn't a catalogue of first-novel mistakes. The dialogue is usually flabby (``I wanna follow him,'' says a detective watching the Dreadnaught. ``Maybe he's runnin' an errand,'' says his partner. ``Maybe he is. Maybe he's runnin' an errand for Uncle Sally.'' ``Maybe he's runnin' out for a head of lettuce''); and, meanwhile, the plot gets sidetracked into very secondary concerns, like the head chef's struggle with heroin and entrance into a methadone program. Worst of all, though, the ending is a big disappointment: too easy, and totally anticlimactic. Great descriptions of food. But despite some very graphic violence, not as sharp, hard, or mean as the genre demands.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-43552-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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