Superb, winsome female characters headline this breezy thriller.

REAL ESTATE, MURDER, AND MAYHEM

In this debut mystery, a real estate broker’s life and work are a series of ups, downs, and the occasional corpse.

Realtor Vivianne Murphy earns both a client and a friend when she helps Venice Martino find a new place to live. Venice settles on a log home in Havenville, Washington, just across the street from Vivianne. The two women are soon co-workers after Venice gets her real estate license. There’s a pile of money to be made in this business, even if it’s sometimes dangerous. Vivianne buys and carries a gun and Taser for protection and has a frightening encounter with a potential client—though this allows her to put her Taser to good use. But real estate has its glamorous side, and Vivianne and Venice are thrilled by the chance to broker the sale of a multimillion-dollar home. They plan to meet the prospective buyers at the house only to discover a body there. Do they call the police? Or do they move the corpse so they won’t lose an epic commission? Their ultimate decision has unexpected and hazardous consequences. Addison’s lead female characters are captivating, particularly Vivianne. The author devotes a substantial portion of the lighthearted tale to her. Vivianne fled New York primarily to escape her overbearing mother, with whom she maintains a strained relationship. These familial subplots, including hefty backstories on both of Vivianne’s failed marriages, are wholly absorbing, perhaps more so than the novel’s mystery element. But that’s because the mystery, rather than taking center stage, plays out as another subplot. The narrative is generally high-spirited; finding a body, for example, spawns dark humor but no scares or suspense. Still, the tense final act offers undisputed perils. Addison’s brisk, conversational prose entails periodic sighs, as if Vivianne’s narration constantly reminds her how exasperating her life is.

Superb, winsome female characters headline this breezy thriller.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 229

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2020

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A rousing legal thriller that’s also an acute study of female victimization and male privilege.

THE STOLEN HOURS

A law clerk still battling demons from her past must rise to dizzying heights in preparing a case against a serial sex killer.

Lila Nash has never truly recovered from her rape when she was 18. She’s cut herself, tried to kill herself, spent years in therapy, powered her way through law school, and landed a plum entry-level job with the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office despite the fact that Frank Dovey, the new prosecutor, has hated Lila ever since she and her law school mentor, professor Boady Sanden, embarrassed him in court. Now Andi Fitch, the aggressive prosecutor to whom Dovey has assigned Lila as an assistant in the serene confidence that she’ll fail, presses her to make the case against wedding photographer Gavin Spencer, who’s accused of assaulting and nearly killing bridesmaid Sadie Vauk. Spencer, a serial predator who plans and executes his murderous assaults meticulously and has a special gift for seeing around curves and destroying the evidence that might incriminate him, is a ruthless antagonist. As Eskens demonstrates, however, he’s cut from the same cloth as Frank Dovey, whose bloodless campaign against Lila is every bit as unscrupulous. Even readers who predict the tale’s biggest twist before it arrives will still have the breath knocked out of them by the surprises that follow. And they’ll all cheer when fragile Lila finally gains the strength to stand up to the oppressors in her life and wrestle it back from them.

A rousing legal thriller that’s also an acute study of female victimization and male privilege.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31670-349-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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