Idiosyncratic characters annoy rather than charm in this book-centric cozy that doesn’t have the humor or lightness of...

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FOUL PLAY ON WORDS

Trying to solve the kidnapping of a friend’s daughter sounds more compelling than leading a Portland writers' conference to an out-of-town writer who's suddenly been put in charge.

After establishing herself with some success as an author—and how much success can the average author even expect?—Charlemagne Russo, known to friends as Charlee, agrees to speak at a writers’ conference as a favor to a friend. When Charlee arrives in Portland, she expects her friend and the conference organizer, Viv Lundquist, to want a little help with the final conference plans, but Viv has other ideas. After telling Charlee that her adult daughter, Hanna, has been kidnapped, Viv pressures Charlee to take the reins of the rest of the conference organizing, from stuffing gift bags to herding volunteers. Charlee is agreeable (though Viv’s harried entitlement might make someone who was less of a softie turn her back on the request) and tries to do what she can in a sort of Murphy’s Law of conference planning. First, it seems that the conference site, the Pacific Portland Hotel, has double-booked a dog agility show for the same days, and the hotel staff doesn’t seem to think this is a problem. Then an East Coast storm means that many of the prestigious workshop leaders may be unable to make it for their sessions, but Viv doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem if Charlee steps in and offers professional writing advice in their steads. Charlee’s almost at her wits' end with Viv’s requests and loses patience when Viv is willing to embezzle conference fees to pay Hanna’s ransom. All of this leads Charlee to wonder if Hanna has been kidnapped at all or if Viv is looking for an excuse to liquidate the funds for herself. Drawing on her past success in investigating, Charlee decides the time has come for her to get to the bottom of Hanna’s disappearance, even if the truth implicates someone she once trusted.

Idiosyncratic characters annoy rather than charm in this book-centric cozy that doesn’t have the humor or lightness of Clark’s debut mystery (Fiction Can Be Murder, 2018, etc.).

Pub Date: April 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7387-5366-9

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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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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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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