DARK OF NIGHT

Engrossing bits of scholarship tucked into a nifty procedural with amiable sleuths.

The theft of priceless papyrus fragments leads to murder and an international search for both the parchments and a killer.

Dr. Elizabeth Lawrence, head of the Chicago Institute of Middle Eastern Antiquities, excitedly receives a pair of documents known as the Moses papyri during a late-night rendezvous. When she abruptly goes missing, both Ronen Avraham, of the Israeli Antiquities Authority, and Elizabeth’s friend Dr. Evan Wilding, a professor of semiotics, linguistics, and paleography at the University of Chicago, undertake separate searches. Elizabeth’s recent diagnosis of cancer leads Evan to suspect suicide. Then police detective Addie Bisset, for whom Evan has worked previously as a consultant, calls with the news that Elizabeth’s been found dead in her car. When examining her body, Evan discovers an Egyptian cobra. It’s apparently the agent of death…and a message as well? Nickless’ character-driven mystery unfolds on a panoramic scale, presenting a huge cast of characters and working in interesting sidebars about mythology, paleontology, Middle East history, cobras, Chicago tourist attractions, and more. Addie focuses primarily on forensics, while Evan undertakes phone- and legwork. He alertly links the murder to Elizabeth’s recent trip to Israel. Once they team up, the investigative path takes the duo through numerous sketchy characters in the worlds of antiquities, academia, and the Mossad. Perro, a corgi Evan is dogsitting, proves an able sidekick and source of comic relief.

Engrossing bits of scholarship tucked into a nifty procedural with amiable sleuths.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-6625-0081-7

Page Count: 367

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

THE ATLAS MANEUVER

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Cotton Malone, who just can’t stay retired from international intrigue, joins the mad dance of competitors for a fortune in bitcoin.

So many people have forgotten about the horde of gold the retreating Japanese hid on Luzon Island in the Philippines that it’s not at all clear who has legal title to it. That’s perfect for Robert Citrone, the retired CIA overseer of the Black Eagle Trust, which has used the gold to fund covert operations around the world. Just as Derrick Koger, the European station chief for the CIA, is pulling Malone away from his Copenhagen bookstore to help him investigate possible misdeeds swirling around Luxembourg’s Bank of St. George and its ruthless chief operating officer, Catherine Gledhill, other interested parties turn up in often surprising connections. Freelance assassin Kyra Lhota executes Armenian oligarch Samvel Yerevan and moves on to her next target. Malone’s sometime lover Cassiopeia Vitt is snatched by high-ranking Japanese security chief Aiko Ejima. His former lover Suzy Baldwin resurfaces as Kelly Austin, BSG’s director of special technology, who’s concealing secrets from Malone and the rest of the world. They’re all on the trail of a fabulous cache of bitcoin that in the absence of any legal records of ownership will belong, like the Luzon gold, to anyone who can track it down and grab it. The grandly scaled complications that follow feature countless broken alliances and the deaths of a fearsome number of nonfranchise characters. An extended author’s note explains what’s historically accurate (quite a bit, as it turns out) and what’s fabricated (quite a bit more).

Speculators who haven’t been put off by bitcoin’s recent crash will enjoy this walk—well, run—on the wild side.

Pub Date: Feb. 20, 2024

ISBN: 9781538721032

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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