The flowers of evil, sketched in lurid botanical detail.

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BAUDELAIRE'S REVENGE

As the Second Empire wanes, a series of murders baffles a dissolute Parisian police commissioner and his long-suffering factotum.

Van Laerhoven packs much complexity into 256 pages, giving this historical mystery the heft of a far longer work—but not the coherence. In 1870, Napoleon III is losing the Franco-Prussian war, Paris is under siege, and aristocrats are girding themselves for yet another revolution. Amid the chaos, police commissioner Paul Lefèvre, whose police work is often derailed by his unbridled lust for courtesans and cocottes, and his dour assistant, Bernard Bouveroux, who still chastely mourns his long-dead wife, are puzzling over a series of grisly murders that have a common element: All the corpses are found with scraps of Charles Baudelaire’s verse. Although the notorious author of Les Fleurs du Mal died in 1867, the poetry appears to be in his handwriting. As the investigation continues, the narration fragments as other characters add their voices to the puzzle. The diminutive Simone Bourbier, aka Poupeye, a charlatan and sometime clairvoyant, lures Lefèvre to her lair with promises of an orgy, from which he emerges dazed and addled as Simone, along with Claire de la Lune, Lefèvre’s favorite lady of the night, vanishes. Simone’s diary reveals that she is actually Baudelaire's twin sister, born with a deformity that caused the twins’ mother to consign her to a convent. Simone confesses her incestuous affair with Charles, which resulted both in her infection with syphilis and the birth of her daughter—Claire de la Lune. As the revelations pile up—the twins’ guilt-ridden mother makes an appearance, as do scenes from Lefèvre’s and Bouveroux’s military service in Algeria and episodes from Lefèvre’s tormented childhood—the whodunit aspect quickly becomes secondary, since one of the many characters is the obvious culprit. Instead, the book’s main preoccupation is the conclusive demonstration that everyone is guilty of something—the only mystery is, to what degree?

The flowers of evil, sketched in lurid botanical detail.

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60598-548-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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