A tense, engaging series mystery.

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DEAD WRONG

A SAMANTHA CHURCH MYSTERY

The third installment of Ferrendelli’s mystery series (Revenge is Sweet, 2013, etc.) centers on a mortuary where the bodies aren’t exactly treated with respect.

For an unassuming Denver suburb, Grandview has seen its share of problems. Not long ago, there was an illegal drug ring operating from—of all places—the Grandview Police Department. Samantha Church, the Grandview Perspective newspaper reporter who exposed the operation, then became the victim of a revenge kidnapping that also threatened the lives of her boss, Wilson Cole Jr., and her daughter, April. Now, the local Hilltop Gardens Mortuary is secretly dismembering the recently deceased and selling body parts to the highest bidders. When the demand for parts gets too high, some Hilltop workers find deadly ways to restock their supply. Sam gets a tip about this suspicious activity from Abby Love, a bright pre-med student who drives dead bodies from hospitals and nursing homes to the appropriate places. Together, the two find out that things are far worse at Hilltop than they ever imagined. When Sam loses contact with Abby and goes to look for her, she finds out just how far the people at Hilltop are willing to go to keep things quiet. All the while, Sam must also deal with her unsteady dating life and continue her fight against alcoholism as she attempts to regain custody of her daughter. Ferrendelli’s skill at developing layered, flawed characters is once again evident here. Sam, in particular, is a likably imperfect protagonist. The author also proves that she has a keen eye for thoughtful details; for example, Wilson has a prosthetic hand to replace one he recently lost, and when he puts his hands on his hips, he has “the strange sensation of being able to feel the fabric of his pants with his right hand, but not with his left.” There are a few distracting errors, such as when Sam thinks about “this terrible addition to alcohol,” but most readers will gloss over them due to the story’s fine characters and suspense.

A tense, engaging series mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1507590003

Page Count: 284

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

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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 racism, classism, and sexism of 50 years ago wrapped up in a stylish, sexy, suspenseful period drama about a newsroom...

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LADY IN THE LAKE

Baltimore in the 1960s is the setting for this historical fiction about a real-life unsolved drowning.

In her most ambitious work to date, Lippman (Sunburn, 2018, etc.) tells the story of Maddie Schwartz, an attractive 37-year-old Jewish housewife who abruptly leaves her husband and son to pursue a long-held ambition to be a journalist, and Cleo Sherwood, an African-American cocktail waitress about whom little is known. Sherwood's body was found in a lake in a city park months after she disappeared, and while no one else seems to care enough to investigate, Maddie becomes obsessed—partly due to certain similarities she perceives between her life and Cleo's, partly due to her faith in her own detective skills. The story unfolds from Maddie's point of view as well as that of Cleo's ghost, who seems to be watching from behind the scenes, commenting acerbically on Maddie's nosing around like a bull in a china shop after getting a job at one of the city papers. Added to these are a chorus of Baltimore characters who make vivid one-time appearances: a jewelry store clerk, an about-to-be-murdered schoolgirl, "Mr. Helpline," a bartender, a political operative, a waitress, a Baltimore Oriole, the first African-American female policewoman (these last two are based on real people), and many more. Maddie's ambition propels her forward despite the cost to others, including the family of the deceased and her own secret lover, a black policeman. Lippman's high-def depiction of 1960s Baltimore and the atmosphere of the newsroom at that time—she interviewed associates of her father, Baltimore Sun journalist Theo Lippman Jr., for the details—ground the book in fascinating historical fact.The literary gambit she balances atop that foundation—the collage of voices—works impressively, showcasing the author's gift for rhythms of speech. The story is bigger than the crime, and the crime is bigger than its solution, making Lippman's skill as a mystery novelist work as icing on the cake.

The racism, classism, and sexism of 50 years ago wrapped up in a stylish, sexy, suspenseful period drama about a newsroom and the city it covers.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-239001-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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