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

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THE PIPER

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

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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