Enough tangents to keep readers guessing, with a strong female protagonist who finally comes into her own.

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THE SLEEPING LADY

A MYSTERY

A debut mystery mixes murder and betrayal with a suspicious international enterprise.

Thirty-six-year-old Rae Sullivan, happily married to successful architect Peter, runs a small garden and home decor shop with her longtime friend Thalia Holcombe in the small town of San Anselmo, 20 miles north of San Francisco. When Thalia returns from a European shopping trip, she shows Rae a threatening note she received in Paris. Someone is wise to the affair she has been having with handsome French importer/exporter Etienne Duchamp. Thalia is convinced the note was written by Etienne’s assistant, Marcel. Several weeks later, Etienne; his family; his office manager, Jerome; and Marcel arrive in San Francisco and, surprisingly, are guests at a party for Thalia’s husband, Garrett. Later, Thalia is shot to death in Golden Gate Park, and Rae is determined to prove that Marcel is the killer. The police are less than impressed with her theories and their investigation appears to have stalled. Eventually, Rae decides it is up to her to follow some intriguing bread crumbs from abroad; she impulsively heads to Paris, where an unexpected subplot puts her in mortal danger. The first-person narration is peppered with lovely images of Marin County, Paris, and even the eclectic assortment of items decorating the small backyard patio attached to Rae’s store: “Chairs, obelisks, and other merchandise were sprinkled among them, creating a setting that invited customers to sit and linger on warm days. Morning glories climbed a trellis in a wide metal planter that was previously a Victorian laundry tub.” In Monte’s promising first novel, the time spent on descriptions offers soothing respite from the ominous warning lights of the plot twists. The author effectively fills out the dimensions of Rae’s character by crafting evocative visuals of her personality. In addition, the skillfully scripted dialogue is often humorous and edgy in this suspenseful tale.

Enough tangents to keep readers guessing, with a strong female protagonist who finally comes into her own.

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63152-387-8

Page Count: 228

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2018

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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