Though with some longueurs, Bello’s ride is generally swift, funny, and sharp—and, speaking of sharp, a “Solution” at end...

THE MISSING PIECE

An American-born Parisian’s debut is a high intellectual entertainment about jigsaw-puzzles: a galloping satire that’s also a murder mystery to boot.

The puzzle fad comes and goes. It was huge in the Depression (when the Society of Friends of the Puzzle was founded—later to become The Puzzology Society) and it has grown big again now, in the early 1990s, a fact looked upon with scorn by the likes of Upton Sutter, the smug and pretentious president of The Puzzology Society (with its tiny- remaining handful of members). The craze is seen very differently, though, by zillionaire Charles Wallerstein, who founds what’s called the JP Tour: a breakneck endeavor that pits one speed-puzzler against another, draws Super Bowl-size crowds, and makes buckets and buckets of money. While the Puzzology Society discusses subjects like the relation between puzzles and mystery novels, the significance of “the missing piece” (“The final piece is, by definition, the one that precedes the missing piece”), and mounts “equilibrium” experiments (one worker forms bricks into a wall while another follows behind, taking them apart), Wallerstein and associates scout for talent the world over and make the JP Tour, year by year, ever the more successful and intense. So you can imagine the shock when, in 1995, no fewer than five people are murdered in that many months, all of them connected with the puzzling world, and all killed in the same way, though with puzzling variations. Whodunit? Bello tells his tale in 47 “pieces” (the 48th is missing) consisting of interviews, obituaries, news items, Puzzology Society minutes, scholarly works, extracts from board meetings, etc. It’s not always easy keeping straight who’s who—Bello often fleshes his characters meagerly—but nothing can compromise the brilliance of his satire here of sporting events, literary theorists, academia, Bill Gates–size fortunes, overspecialized athletes, and even anthropology.

Though with some longueurs, Bello’s ride is generally swift, funny, and sharp—and, speaking of sharp, a “Solution” at end discloses method, motive, and murderer.

Pub Date: April 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-15-601337-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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Perhaps too much ingenuity for its own good. But except for Jeffery Deaver and Sophie Hannah, no one currently working the...

THE SENTENCE IS DEATH

Fired Scotland Yard detective Daniel Hawthorne bursts onto the scene of his unwilling collaborator and amanuensis, screenwriter/novelist Anthony, who seems to share all Horowitz’s (Forever and a Day, 2018, etc.) credentials, to tell him that the game’s afoot again.

The victim whose death requires Hawthorne’s attention this time is divorce attorney Richard Pryce, bashed to death in the comfort of his home with a wine bottle. The pricey vintage was a gift from Pryce’s client, well-to-do property developer Adrian Lockwood, on the occasion of his divorce from noted author Akira Anno, who reportedly celebrated in a restaurant only a few days ago by pouring a glass of wine over the head of her husband’s lawyer. Clearly she’s too good a suspect to be true, and she’s soon dislodged from the top spot by the news that Gregory Taylor, who’d long ago survived a cave-exploring accident together with Pryce that left their schoolmate Charles Richardson dead, has been struck and killed by a train at King’s Cross Station. What’s the significance of the number “182” painted on the crime scene’s wall and of the words (“What are you doing here? It’s a bit late”) with which Pryce greeted his murderer? The frustrated narrator (The Word Is Murder, 2018) can barely muster the energy to reflect on these clues because he’s so preoccupied with fending off the rudeness of Hawthorne, who pulls a long face if his sidekick says boo to the suspects they interview, and the more-than-rudeness of the Met’s DI Cara Grunshaw, who threatens Hawthorne with grievous bodily harm if he doesn’t pass on every scrap of intelligence he digs up. Readers are warned that the narrator’s fondest hope—“I like to be in control of my books”—will be trampled and that the Sherlock-ian solution he laboriously works out is only the first of many.

Perhaps too much ingenuity for its own good. But except for Jeffery Deaver and Sophie Hannah, no one currently working the field has anywhere near this much ingenuity to burn.

Pub Date: May 28, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-267683-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on...

MYSTIC RIVER

After five adventures for Boston shamus Patrick Kenzie and his off-again lover Angela Gennaro (Prayers for Rain, 1999, etc.), Lehane tries his hand at a crossover novel that’s as dark as any of Patrick’s cases.

Even the 1975 prologue is bleak. Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus are playing, or fighting, outside Sean’s parents’ house in the Point neighborhood of East Buckingham when a car pulls up, one of the two men inside flashes a badge, and Sean and Jimmy’s friend Dave Boyle gets bundled inside, allegedly to be driven home to his mother for a scolding but actually to get kidnapped. Though Dave escapes after a few days, he never really outlives his ordeal, and 25 years later it’s Jimmy’s turn to join him in hell when his daughter Katie is shot and beaten to death in the wilds of Pen Park, and State Trooper Sean, just returned from suspension, gets assigned to the case. Sean knows that both Dave and Jimmy have been in more than their share of trouble in the past. And he’s got an especially close eye on Jimmy, whose marriage brought him close to the aptly named Savage family and who’s done hard time for robbery. It would be just like Jimmy, Sean knows, to ignore his friend’s official efforts and go after the killer himself. But Sean would be a lot more worried if he knew what Dave’s wife Celeste knows: that hours after catching sight of Katie in the last bar she visited on the night of her death, Dave staggered home covered with somebody else’s blood. Burrowing deep into his three sorry heroes and the hundred ties that bind them unbearably close, Lehane weaves such a spellbinding tale that it’s easy to overlook the ramshackle mystery behind it all.

An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on his characters’ heads.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16316-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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