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

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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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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