No surprises here, but Thiem’s tough-but-tender hero’s dedication to a routine so grueling it feels authentic puts the...

THRILL KILL

The second case for Oakland PD Sgt. Matt Sinclair (Red Line, 2015) hits a little closer to home than he’d like.

Dawn Gustafson was only 17 when Sinclair arrested her for streetwalking 10 years ago. Though she couldn’t abide life with her God-fearing parents back in Minnesota, the girl seemed to be as bright and gifted as she was beautiful, and Sinclair cheered when she avoided the worst punishments of the justice system and got another chance. Now that second chance has ended with an indelible image: the figure of Dawn, strangled, shot, set afire, and hanged from a tree in Burckhalter Park. Who could have hated her enough to choreograph such an elaborately sadistic murder scene? Going through customary investigative routines sharpened by his personal sense of mourning, Sinclair soon realizes that despite taking accounting courses at San Francisco State, Dawn was back on the game. His attempt to lean on Helena Decker, her boss at Special Ladies Escorts, brings him into an uneasy alliance with the FBI, and his meeting with Bianca Fadell, Helena’s smoking-hot lawyer, leads to a further round of introductions to local bigwigs, the obligatory temptations of the flesh, and the strong suspicion that he’s playing with several different kinds of fire. When everyone from FBI agent Mark Cummings to U.S. Attorney Jack Campbell to Sinclair’s ex-partner, Sgt. Phil Roberts of OPD Intelligence, acts as if Dawn’s murder can be safely ignored in favor of the big picture, Sinclair wonders how big that picture must be if it allows an unusually savage murder to be swept under the rug.

No surprises here, but Thiem’s tough-but-tender hero’s dedication to a routine so grueling it feels authentic puts the procedure back in procedural.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62953-766-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crooked Lane

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more