A taut, suspenseful thriller; a third outing for the agent and his team would surely be welcome.

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A special division of the FBI scours the Massachusetts area for an abductor of infants in this sequel.

FBI Special Agent Jeff Pine of the Boston branch has made little headway with the kidnapping of 10-week-old Portia Stiles. Following a second infant abduction with the same M.O., Special Agent Jackson Byrne and the Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resource Center are on the case. The CASMIRC team gathers the few available clues: An individual had tasered the mothers, who subsequently supplied scant details other than hearing a voice calling out, “Hey.” Jack gets some insight into the investigation from the currently incarcerated Playground Predator, a serial killer who is the subject of Jack’s book in progress and who had kidnapped the fed’s wife and son. The murderer’s upcoming trial is rattling the families of his victims, who want to see justice served, even if they have to mete it out themselves. CASMIRC’s case, meanwhile, is shaken by a third abduction, one that ends with the baby’s mother dead rather than tasered. A modified M.O. could signify the perp’s escalation or a copycat, either scenario giving the feds further incentive to stop the kidnapper/killer. Miller’s (A Bustle in the Hedgerow, 2013) story is loaded with characters; many are returnees from his preceding novel but with ample context for new readers. Characterizations are robust, in line with the sequel’s overall sense of simmering violence. The stepfather of a Playground Predator victim, for example, sits in his study with the “earthy fragrance of oak” before removing a .38 pistol from his desk drawer. The narrative likewise implies much of the brutality: Not every abduction/tasering is shown, and even a physical confrontation near the end is not drawn out. A couple of plot turns are predictable, but Miller knows how to sustain the tension until the next round of surprises—with some twists involving all those characters’ unresolved issues regarding the Playground Predator.

A taut, suspenseful thriller; a third outing for the agent and his team would surely be welcome.

Pub Date: June 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5404-7091-1

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Krac Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018



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


As in summer movies, a triple dose of violence conceals the absence of real menace when neither victims nor avengers stir...

Dr. Alex Cross has left Metro DC Homicide for the FBI, but it’s business as usual in this laughably rough-hewn fairy tale of modern-day white slavery.

According to reliable sources, more people are being sold into slavery than ever before, and it all seems to be going down on the FBI’s watch. Atlanta ex-reporter Elizabeth Connolly, who looks just like Claudia Schiffer, is the ninth target over the past two years to be abducted by a husband-and-wife pair who travel the country at the behest of the nefarious Pasha Sorokin, the Wolf of the Red Mafiya. The only clues are those deliberately left behind by the kidnappers, who snatch fashion designer Audrey Meek from the King of Prussia Mall in full view of her children, or patrons like Audrey’s purchaser, who ends up releasing her and killing himself. Who you gonna call? Alex Cross, of course. Even though he still hasn’t finished the Agency’s training course, all the higher-ups he runs into, from hardcases who trust him to lickspittles seething with envy, have obviously read his dossier (Four Blind Mice, 2002, etc.), and they know the new guy is “close to psychic,” a “one-man flying squad” who’s already a legend, “like Clarice Starling in the movies.” It’s lucky that Cross’s reputation precedes him, because his fond creator doesn’t give him much to do here but chase suspects identified by obliging tipsters and worry about his family (Alex Jr.’s mother, alarmed at Cross’s dangerous job, is suing for custody) while the Wolf and his cronies—Sterling, Mr. Potter, the Art Director, Sphinx, and the Marvel—kidnap more dishy women (and the occasional gay man) and kill everybody who gets in their way, and quite a few poor souls who don’t.

As in summer movies, a triple dose of violence conceals the absence of real menace when neither victims nor avengers stir the slightest sympathy.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2003

ISBN: 0-316-60290-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003

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