A mixture of comedy with tragedy that fails to produce real black comedy: another decent but desperately uneven effort from...


A member of Parliament takes on the bugaboo of drug decriminalization.

Well-known British comic author Elton has already taken on reality TV (Dead Famous, Feb. 2003), Tarantino-esque filmmakers (Popcorn, 1997), and the perils of pregnancy (Inconceivable, 2000). Now, he takes up the drug trade and attendant criminality, in pretty much all their aspects. His method is to weave together a number of different plotlines dependent upon a light web of coincidence and interrelations (something like the film Traffic), the most central of these involving a heretofore-overlooked Parliament member, Peter Paget, who proposes a sweeping decriminalization bill that’s met at first with expected jeers and consternation but gradually gathers some real steam. If only Paget—the picture of two-kids-and-a-wife decency—wasn’t shagging his comely assistant. Elsewhere, there’s the crusading anticorruption police inspector, the Scottish girl sucked into addiction and prostitution on the streets of London, a drug mule in Bangkok, and, providing most of the needed comic relief, a running monologue given at various recovery meetings by a hugely successful Robbie Williams–esque pop star about his crimes and misadventures as he ingests truly heroic amounts of cocaine and alcohol. Paget provides Elton’s thesis: the illegality of drugs mixed with the near-universal taking of drugs makes the entire county criminal: “We are all either criminals ourselves or associates of criminals or relatives of criminals.” The first third or so here is rather inspired, mixing Elton’s quick-witted banter with a high-minded yet concretely realistic assault on drug hysteria. Elton, however, like his pop star who whines about this fact, will not be breaking the US market with his effort. No matter how cheeky the whole, the last half of the book, in which Paget et al. collapse in a welter of bad decision-making and the ravages of addiction, is not as successful in its pathos as the earlier pages were in their humor.

A mixture of comedy with tragedy that fails to produce real black comedy: another decent but desperately uneven effort from Elton.

Pub Date: July 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-593-04939-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bantam UK/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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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. 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...


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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