The fey main event couldn’t be more different from Gilbert’s tales of scalawag solicitor Arthur Crook. Retro fans rejoice.

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DEATH IN FANCY DRESS

Did your New Year’s Eve leave you feeling underwhelmed? Tuck into this reprint from 1933 whose centerpiece is a country-house party complete with everything from costumes to a corpse.

The pseudonymous Gilbert—real name Lucy Beatrice Malleson (1899-1973)—spins a web whose center, according to Edward Philpotts of the Home Office, is the Spider, a well-placed blackmailer he suspects is behind a recent rash of upper-class suicides. So he's eager to have solicitor Tony Keith root around in his relatives' home, Feltham Abbey, where Philpotts thinks Tony’s cousin Hilary Feltham is the latest blackmailing victim. That suits Tony, who’s received a frantic summons to Feltham by Lady Eleanor Nunn, the widow of Hilary’s father, Sir Percy Feltham, who topped himself over a family financial scandal back in 1917, leaving her to rescue her own fortunes by marrying Sir James Nunn. And it suits Tony’s old school friend Jeremy Freyne, who’s just learned that Hilary, the woman he loves, has become engaged to Arthur Dennis, of the Foreign Office. While Tony looks for signs of the Spider, Jeremy will tag along, elbow this interloper Dennis aside, and sweep Hilary off her feet once more. Other interested parties turn out to have plans of their own. Sir James and Lady Eleanor want to throw a party for Hilary’s 21st birthday, when she’s due to come into the 10,000 pounds her father salvaged from the general wreck of his estate. Sir Ralph Feltham, Hilary’s cousin, seems intent on blackmailing everyone he meets. Arthur Dennis rather winningly suggests killing Ralph. And when Ralph fails to turn up at Hilary’s party, it’s for the best reason in the world. The result is a country-house whodunit on steroids, with hyperextended expository paragraphs, gossip on tap 24/7, endless blather, and a meticulously detailed explanation at the end. As a bonus, readers can enjoy a pair of short stories from 1939 that show how much sharper the author’s voice became in the interval.

The fey main event couldn’t be more different from Gilbert’s tales of scalawag solicitor Arthur Crook. Retro fans rejoice.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4642-1225-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

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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A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

PRETTY AS A PICTURE

Murder and mayhem plague a film set on a secluded island off the coast of Delaware in Little’s (Dear Daughter, 2015, etc.) sophomore thriller.

When film editor Marissa Dahl takes a job on a new film directed by the talented but temperamental Tony Rees, she’s not given a script and must sign a mile-long nondisclosure agreement. It’s not ideal, but she needs the work. Escorted by an attractive ex–Navy SEAL named Isaiah, Marissa arrives on Kickout Island to find a bustling set, headquartered at a beautiful hotel, that is cloaked in secrecy and beset with dysfunction. Once Marissa gets down to work, she realizes that picking up the slack from the previous editor, who was fired for unknown reasons, won’t be smooth sailing and that the movie is based on the real-life unsolved murder of aspiring actress Caitlyn Kelly 25 years ago on that very island. Most folks assume that an eccentric ferry captain named Billy Lyle, a friend of Caitlyn’s, was the killer, but there was never enough evidence to convict. A few people, however, think he may be innocent. Marissa sets out to discover what really happened to Caitlyn with the help of Isaiah and two intrepid, tech-savvy 13-year-olds—Grace Portillo and Suzy Koh, whose parents work for the hotel. What she finds is a dead body and a whole lot of trouble. Readers fascinated with the behind-the-scenes machinations of a movie set will be enthralled, plus there’s a frisson of romantic tension between Isaiah and Marissa, and the island setting lends some spooky atmosphere. Snippets from Grace and Suzy’s true-crime podcast, Dead Ringer, are also sprinkled throughout. Though a killer on the loose adds a fair bit of urgency in the second half, the main focus is on Little’s singular narrator. Marissa relates to the world primarily through film and considers herself anything but typical: “It’s possible I’ve spent so much time watching movies that the language of film has infiltrated some primal, necessary part of my brain. I catch myself processing my own emotions in scenes, in shots, in dialogue.”

A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-670-01639-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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