NEVER SHAKE HANDS WITH A LEFT-HANDED GUNMAN

Four ways of looking at a vanished Barcelonan, courtesy of this young Spanish writer’s first US publication. One day Israel Lacasa was there, the next morning he wasn’t, says his dim-witted but faithful companion Gaizka Uriarte. There were hints of trouble beforehand, of course—the time Israel ran afoul of the Coast Guard for putting his new boat in the water before filling out the paperwork, the time somebody painted a big white X on his front door while his dogs (jointly named Tommy Gun) barked helplessly inside—in fact, Israel’s checkered career was nothing but one hint of trouble after another. But which of his petty skullduggeries—working on a suspicious-sounding offshore project sinking cars in the sea, crossing swords with the Coast Guard’s Capt. Urrutia (if that’s really his name), stealing his buddy Blueberry’s girlfriend Sara for the second time—got him killed, or is he really dead at all? Americans familiar with the conventions of recent detective fiction in Spanish will know that the inquiry into Israel’s fate is really an inquest into his identity, conducted in this case through successive narratives by Gaizka, Sara, and Blueberry, who don’t seem to agree about very much except rock music, anomie, and the charismatic power of Israel, from whom they’ve all, from ex-boxer Gaizka to bleeding-heart Sara, picked up the habit of speaking almost exclusively in demotic—and wannabe demotic—quotations (“I’ll see it when I believe it,” Israel oracularly tells his stooge Gaizka, who dutifully weighs in with contenders like “If ducks weren’t so fast then anyone could be a good hunter”). Old hands will also know better than to assume that this mÇlange of macho posturing and postmodern attitudinizing, capped by a climactic appearance by one Benjam°n Prado, will lead to any conclusive information about the whereabouts of Israel Lacasa. To quote Prado at his most provoking: “Like they say in the movies, this is the real world.”

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-20084-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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