Another atmospheric, beautifully written mystery in which Hambly continues to explore the repugnant practice of classifying...

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COLD BAYOU

A rewardingly complex tale of murder in families related by blood and stratified by color in 1839 New Orleans.

Benjamin January (Murder in July, 2017, etc.) is a Paris-trained physician and musician whose mother, Livia, was the mistress of a wealthy Creole man who'd purchased her as a slave and then freed her. His sister, Dominique, is the current mistress of Henri Viellard, a nephew of Veryl St-Chinian, an elderly Creole man with a large interest in many plantations who plans to marry a young Irish girl with a sordid past. January, who is dark-skinned, is asked to play at the wedding, to which many of his pale-complexioned relatives are invited. His sister Olympe, a voodooienne, warns him of danger at Cold Bayou, a remote, crumbling sugar plantation totally unsuited to housing wedding guests. Louisiana law requires every member of a family-owned property to agree on decisions. Because Veryl’s bride, Ellie, would inherit his large share of the estate, his family is doing everything possible to stop the marriage. First a voodoo charm is found in Ellie’s dress. Then the steamboat arrives without the priest but with Ellie’s thuggish uncle, Mick Trask, accompanied by several bully boys. Things get worse. In an attempt to break up a fight, January falls from a balcony and breaks an ankle. Valla, Ellie’s light-complexioned house slave, claims that Ellie’s father loaned money to the man who used to own Livia and was never repaid, which would make Livia and her entire family slaves. Unremitting heat and humidity blanket the plantation, portending a storm as the squabbling families wait for the priest. January is caring for a man hurt in a duel when word arrives that Valla has been murdered. In the dark she could have been mistaken for her mistress, but whichever woman was the target, January knows that a black person will be blamed. When Trask seizes upon January as the culprit, he’s shackled in a room as the plantation is flooded and must rely on others to gather clues and uncover the real killer.

Another atmospheric, beautifully written mystery in which Hambly continues to explore the repugnant practice of classifying people by the color of their skin.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8798-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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