A superior pastiche which, like the early work of Sena Jeter Naslund and Laurie R. King, is less interested in looking back...

UNQUIET SPIRITS

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson tangle with murder, vinicultural sabotage, and reputed ghosts in a Scottish whisky baron’s estate.

Holmes, that exemplary man of science, doesn’t believe in ghosts. Neither does Watson, who does believe in the hauntings of memory. Although Watson is very taken by Isla McLaren when she visits Baker Street beseeching Holmes’ help in investigating the mysterious disappearance of parlormaid Fiona Paisley, who was returned to the family estate in Braedern two days later tied in a basket with her hair cut off, Holmes is clearly antagonized by the prospective client’s sharp eye and sharp tongue. Holmes dismisses Isla’s fear that Fiona’s kidnapping and the threatening note that accompanied her return are only the latest of a string of family misfortunes that go back to the killing of her brother Donal in Khartoum and the fate of her mother, Lady Elizabeth, who froze to death after she was accidentally locked out of the manse and now allegedly haunts the East Tower. It’s only after Holmes, sent to the south of France by his brother, Mycroft, to look into charges that British distillers may have deliberately introduced a nasty mite that feasts on French grapevines, is present when the severed head of the once-again-missing maid turns up in a ghoulishly unexpected way that he’s moved to accept the invitation of Sir Robert McLaren. McLaren, the laird of Braedern and Isla’s father-in-law, needs Holmes first to visit his estate and then to investigate a mystery whose tentacles threaten to unspool in every direction imaginable. As in Art in the Blood (2015), MacBird presents a Holmes unusually susceptible to violent emotions and actions, captures Watson’s voice without undue strain, manufactures endless complications, and boldly augments the history of Holmes’ early days, though the sprawling web of crimes and perpetrators inevitably leaves some loose ends dangling. Even readers who shake their heads over the unprecedented fissure that opens between Holmes and Watson will be impressed by the generosity of her plotting and the audacity with which she reimagines Holmes.

A superior pastiche which, like the early work of Sena Jeter Naslund and Laurie R. King, is less interested in looking back to 1889, its nominal setting, than in refitting the Great Detective to modern sensibilities.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-00-820108-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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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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