A layered, engaging murder tale that surprises on several levels.

SWAMP MONSTER

From the Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries series , Vol. 7

In this seventh installment of a mystery series, Cincinnati’s favorite dog-loving sleuth confronts a cold case with a deep history.

A body has been discovered following the flooding of Mill Creek—an old one. A skeleton, in fact, dressed like Elvis Presley. Police detective Peter Dourson is dispatched to the scene, and he brings along his girlfriend, painter and occasional crime-solver Lia Anderson. Lia has just lost a beloved dog and acquired a mischievous puppy that is chewing up all of her furniture. The puppy isn’t the only new addition to her life: Peter’s chaotic ex-fiancee, Susan Sweeney, has appeared out of the blue in an attempt to win him back. Peter doesn’t have much hope of cracking the cold case—crimes like this one rarely get solved—but when a story about the Presley skeleton shows up in the National Enquirer, the police are pressured to come up with some real answers. What Lia and Peter don’t realize is that their John Doe is connected to a series of events stretching all the way back to the 1930s. With the aid of the not-always-helpful dog-park gang, can Lia solve a decades-old murder while making sure Susan doesn’t sabotage all that she has built with Peter? The novel takes place not only in the present, but also in flashbacks to the ’30s and ’40s, when the roots of skeleton Presley’s fate are planted. Newsome’s prose is urgent and textured in both sections, as here where she describes a stage magician in 1938: “Mal stood on the Trianon stage, smoking a cigarette while he polished the swords he used with his trick cabinet. It was a subtle thing to sell the act. The brilliant reflection of spotlights on the blades sent a message of deadly danger as he inserted them into the cabinet, drawing involuntary gasps from the audience.” The tale takes its time getting started, but it never bores thanks to the author’s ability to craft intriguing and endearing characters. The book is unexpectedly ambitious in its scope, expanding beyond the series’ usual canine-positive whodunits and into more literary terrain. The result is a story that should appeal to mystery fans and general fiction readers alike.

A layered, engaging murder tale that surprises on several levels.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-947085-05-3

Page Count: 460

Publisher: Two Pup Press

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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