The same mixture as before: a sweeping, overplotted, overscaled account of high crimes, misdemeanors, and violent coverups...

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THE ESCAPE ARTIST

An Army mortician teams up, sort of, with a military artist who just won’t die to thwart an obscenely shape-shifting conspiracy.

Everybody has some God-given talent. Jim Zigarowski’s is to make the dead look presentable for the families who come to view their remains at the Dover Air Force Base. When the bombing of a military plane from Alaska kills all seven aboard, Zig’s attention is drawn not to the headline victim—Librarian of Congress Nelson Rookstool, an old friend of President Orson Wallace—but to Sgt. Nola Brown, an Army artist-in-residence who years ago saved the life of 12-year-old Maggie Zigarowski, though she couldn’t prevent Zig’s daughter from dying scarcely a year later. Illegally grabbing the job of preparing Nola’s remains from the mortician assigned to the case, Zig quickly discovers that the remains aren’t Nola’s after all. His joy that Nola is still alive is tempered by the sobering realization that an awful lot of people have conspired to cover up this happy news by signing off on her death. Inevitably, the living Nola returns, determined to get to the bottom of the bombing. By that time, veteran suspenser Meltzer (co-author: The House of Secrets, 2016, etc.) has begun a series of harrowing flashbacks to Nola’s childhood and adolescence that firmly establish her as the most damaged heroine in the genre since Lisbeth Salander. Uncovering traces of a sinister scheme called Operation Bluebook, Zig and Nola work—often at cross-purposes, though not when they need to save each other’s lives—through a web of corrupt procurers, creatively armed killers, and board-certified magicians to trace and neutralize Bluebook before its resourceful conspirators can kill Zig and finish the job they bungled on Nola.

The same mixture as before: a sweeping, overplotted, overscaled account of high crimes, misdemeanors, and violent coverups and reprisals. But those flashbacks into the heroine’s traumatic early years, although they seriously disrupt the momentum of the blood-and-thunder present-day plot, sting long after the details of that plot have faded.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4555-5952-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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