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A SCOURGE OF VIPERS

The mystery this time is no more than a pendant to a frantic, funny, unsparing account of the corrosive power of big money...

A fourth chapter in the race to the bottom between the state of Rhode Island and Providence Dispatch reporter Liam Mulligan (Providence Rag, 2014, etc.).

Ever since the Dispatch was purchased by General Communications Holdings International, Mulligan’s career has been on life support. The only reason Managing Editor Charles Twisdale doesn’t fire him is that he’d be eligible to collect unemployment while he beat the bushes for his next job. But the Ocean State is giving Mulligan a run for his money in the hard-luck stakes. Now that Mulligan’s old pal Gov. Fiona McNerney, whose years in the convent earned her the sobriquet Attila the Nun, is considering a bill to legalize sports betting in Little Rhody, money is flooding into the state. The goal is to purchase—um, influence—lawmakers on both sides of the issue; the effect is to throw the state’s normal racketeering-cum-bribery apparatus, represented by Dominic “Whoosh” Zerelli, Mulligan’s elderly bookmaker, into turmoil. Suspecting that the time has come to turn in his chips, Whoosh urges Mulligan to take over his book—a move that doesn’t sit at all well with his great-nephew Mario Zerelli. And there are murders too—not of anyone worth mourning but enough to set a pair of cops Mulligan dubs the Homicide Twins on his tail. The fade-out finds Mulligan wondering whether to stake his future on the mean streets of Providence or the online reaches of the rival Ocean State Rag.

The mystery this time is no more than a pendant to a frantic, funny, unsparing account of the corrosive power of big money on print journalism, state government and the fragile souls who fill out the cast. Enjoy it on those terms, and you'll be sorry when it's over.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7653-7431-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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DARK MATTER

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

A man walks out of a bar and his life becomes a kaleidoscope of altered states in this science-fiction thriller.

Crouch opens on a family in a warm, resonant domestic moment with three well-developed characters. At home in Chicago’s Logan Square, Jason Dessen dices an onion while his wife, Daniela, sips wine and chats on the phone. Their son, Charlie, an appealing 15-year-old, sketches on a pad. Still, an undertone of regret hovers over the couple, a preoccupation with roads not taken, a theme the book will literally explore, in multifarious ways. To start, both Jason and Daniela abandoned careers that might have soared, Jason as a physicist, Daniela as an artist. When Charlie was born, he suffered a major illness. Jason was forced to abandon promising research to teach undergraduates at a small college. Daniela turned from having gallery shows to teaching private art lessons to middle school students. On this bracing October evening, Jason visits a local bar to pay homage to Ryan Holder, a former college roommate who just received a major award for his work in neuroscience, an honor that rankles Jason, who, Ryan says, gave up on his career. Smarting from the comment, Jason suffers “a sucker punch” as he heads home that leaves him “standing on the precipice.” From behind Jason, a man with a “ghost white” face, “red, pursed lips," and "horrifying eyes” points a gun at Jason and forces him to drive an SUV, following preset navigational directions. At their destination, the abductor forces Jason to strip naked, beats him, then leads him into a vast, abandoned power plant. Here, Jason meets men and women who insist they want to help him. Attempting to escape, Jason opens a door that leads him into a series of dark, strange, yet eerily familiar encounters that sometimes strain credibility, especially in the tale's final moments.

Suspenseful, frightening, and sometimes poignant—provided the reader has a generously willing suspension of disbelief.

Pub Date: July 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-90422-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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