A sometimes cloudy but uncanny mystery, filled with revelations that dazzle like summer lightning.

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Three Crosses

In LeMay’s quirky debut, a teenager confronts the mysteries surrounding the Renaissance Faire run by his family.

Five years ago, tragedy struck the Mad Brothers Renaissance Faire. Ginger, a beloved Bengal tiger, fatally mauled Matt Madison, the fair’s owner. Since then, Matt’s 17-year-old son, Simon, has craved nothing but solitude in quaint Freemont, S.C, where his life is anything but easy: His mother is mentally ill, his grandfather is wheelchair-bound, and he hates the family business. Tommy, a hardworking friend of Simon’s father, runs the faire himself. Only the arrival of teen psychic Amanda Moon is able to shake Simon from his detachment. Charming, ethereal and living next door in his father’s old trailer, Amanda also believes that someone used Ginger to murder Matt. Enraged by this, Simon seeks out Tommy's tranquil company. The older man tells Simon that he will inherit the faire upon turning 18 if he’s willing to work the grounds part-time; if not, ownership goes to his cousin Aaron, an irresponsible playboy. Further complicating Simon’s life are Amanda’s visions of crosses, the pesky school principal, Dr. Danvers, and the mutilated body of a fellow student found in the local swamp. Simon can’t seem to escape any of it; however, after helping Amanda find the first of three engraved crosses, he no longer wants to. He commits to discovering the truth, although LeMay, a crafty, attentive writer, buries it deeply. The melancholy world quickly surrounds the reader, baiting the imagination with beautiful moments, such as Simon dreaming of Ginger: “Just as she was within arm’s reach, she exploded into a thousand butterflies and fluttered away in as many directions.” Equally memorable are passages highlighting Simon’s transformation from teen to young man: “One minute I was hollow and meandering and the next minute I was filled and directed.” The novel’s first third, which draws several fascinating character portraits, is especially enchanting. But once there’s a fresh murder to solve, LeMay’s writing grows tangled with long phone calls and car rides, and plot points sometimes mix with extraneous detail, creating a bog. By the end, though, LeMay cuts through it all for a satisfying finale.

A sometimes cloudy but uncanny mystery, filled with revelations that dazzle like summer lightning.

Pub Date: April 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482563054

Page Count: 292

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2013

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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