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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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