Though the impatient, tightfisted, homophobic lead detective is impossible to love, the mind-boggling plot triumphs over its...

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THE WORD IS MURDER

Television writer/Christie-loving Sherlock-ian Horowitz (Magpie Murders, 2017, etc.) spins a fiendishly clever puzzle about a television writer/Christie-loving Sherlock-ian named Anthony Something who partners with a modern Sherlock Holmes to solve a baffling case.

Six hours after widowed London socialite Diana Cowper calls on mortician Robert Cornwallis to make arrangements for her own funeral, she’s suddenly in need of them after getting strangled in her home. The Met calls on murder specialist Daniel Hawthorne, an ex-DI bounced off the force for reasons he’d rather not talk about, and he calls on the narrator (“nobody ever calls me Tony”), a writer in between projects whose agent expects him to be working on The House of Silk, a Holmes-ian pastiche which Horowitz happens to have published in real life. Anthony’s agreement with Hawthorne to collaborate on a true-crime account of the case is guaranteed to blindside his agent (in a bad way) and most readers (in entrancingly good ways). Diana Cowper, it turns out, is not only the mother of movie star Damian Cowper, but someone who had her own brush with fame 10 years ago when she accidentally ran over a pair of 8-year-old twins, killing Timothy Godwin and leaving Jeremy Godwin forever brain-damaged. A text message Diana sent Damian moments before her death—“I have seen the boy who was lacerated and I’m afraid”—implicates both Jeremy, who couldn’t possibly have killed her, and the twins’ estranged parents, Alan and Judith Godwin, who certainly could have. But which of them, or which other imaginable suspect, would have sneaked a totally unpredictable surprise into her coffin and then rushed out to commit another murder?

Though the impatient, tightfisted, homophobic lead detective is impossible to love, the mind-boggling plot triumphs over its characters: Sharp-witted readers who think they’ve solved the puzzle early on can rest assured that they’ve opened only one of many dazzling Christmas packages Horowitz has left beautifully wrapped under the tree.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267678-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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