A multilayered, entertaining mystery that introduces a promising pair of detectives.

INTO THE SUFFERING CITY

A NOVEL OF BALTIMORE

In historian and archivist LeFurgy’s debut novel, a brilliant, eccentric medical examiner exposes crime, corruption, and sexist and racist attitudes in 1909 Baltimore.

The author’s considerable research acumen is on display on each page of this sure-handed tale, which introduces pathologist Sarah Kennecott, a gifted and socially awkward recent graduate of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Sarah, who’s presented as being on the autism spectrum (but undiagnosed), brings keen observational skills to her work. During her autopsy of dancing girl Lizzie Sullivan, Sarah comes to her own conclusions and fears that Horace Shaw, a candidate for mayor, is being framed for the murder. In order to prove her theory and bring the real killer to justice, Sarah works with private eye Jack Harden, who looks the part of a hard-boiled detective: “a tall, clean-shaven man in his late twenties, lean as a wolf, a battered derby pulled low over his eyes.” He’s an Army veteran who’s seeking to escape ghosts of the past; he also has some idiosyncrasies, including a fear of elevators. However, Jack also has a sharp sense of how money, power, and corruption are all fuel for the city’s “mad energy.” In alternating chapters, LeFurgy focuses on either Sarah’s or Jack’s perspective. The author maintains suspense throughout, and the case’s unexpected twists test the two as they use their skills to uncover the truth. What makes this mystery stand out, however, is its seamless integration of vivid details of daily life in 1909, its unflinching portrayal of the sexism and racism of the time, and its evocation of the era’s sounds, smells, and tastes. At one point, for instance, Jack walks along Baltimore Street, noticing how “the clip-clop of the passing horses was different in the rain—the sound was clearer and richer”; later, as he climbs the steps of a police station, his eyes water from the smell of a vinegar factory. An author’s note provides further information about such subjects as autism and PTSD.

A multilayered, entertaining mystery that introduces a promising pair of detectives.

Pub Date: April 15, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 319

Publisher: High Kicker Books

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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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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