THE BRIMSTONE WEDDING

A quiet but ultimately searing double portrait of two women's doomed affairs. ``As for liking, they're past all that,'' caregiver Genevieve Warner thinks about her geriatric charges at Norfolk's Middleton Hall. But she finds herself growing close enough to one of those elderly patients, fatally cancer-stricken Stella Newland, to throw her own life into unimaginable calamity. Moved by Jenny's confession that she's in love with married filmmaker Ned Saraman, hitherto reserved Stella begins to talk compulsively about her own loveless marriage and her doomed romance with illustrator Alan Tyzark that ended so abruptly over 20 years ago. Superstitious Jenny thinks the success of her own affair hinges on her grandmother's talismans and the avoidance of red flowers and green clothing only because she doesn't at first see the deeper, far more unsettling ways her story eerily doubles Stella's own. Her ritual comportment toward her unwitting husband and her impassioned lover echoes Stella's; a series of old movies featuring Gilda Brent, Alan's actress wife, provides suitably ironic counterpoint to both affairs; and after Stella asks Jenny to visit Molucca, the house she secretly bought for herself and Alan, Jenny uses it for her assignations with Ned. Eventually the two stories become so closely intertwined that if it weren't for the differences between their voices—Stella's fading, patrician cadences versus Jenny's shrewd, foolish, working-class chat—it would be hard to tell present love from past. It's only at this point that Vine (Ruth Rendell) begins to fulfill the doomy note she's struck from the first by showing how and why both romances must end in disaster—and exactly what the connections are between them that have made Jenny, as grievously as Stella, past all that from the beginning. Vine/Rendell's eighth novel (No Night Is Too Long, Jan. 1995, etc.) is her most tightly wound, her most searching, and perhaps her finest to date. (Literary Guild/Mystery Guild alternate selections)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-517-70339-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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