The incoherent and poorly defined plot drowns under the weight of an ocean of unlikely coincidences.


An elderly woman struggles to find an abandoned 3-year-old, a young woman turns up dead while her baby son fights for his life, and the body of a 16-year-old girl is discovered on a ferry to Finland in Gerhardsen’s Swedish police procedural.

This entry in the Detective Chief Inspector Conny Sjöberg series features little face time for the inspector, and when he does take center stage, he doesn’t do much but stew about his personal life. It’s Petra Westman, a female investigator, who discovers the infant barely clinging to life along with his dead mother and sets out to solve the case. Meanwhile, 3-year-old Hanna, the dead woman’s daughter, is alone in their locked apartment, trying to survive her mother’s disappearance. When Hanna randomly calls retired teacher Barbro, the elderly woman sets out to find the child, since the police don’t seem to be taking her information seriously. Meanwhile, on a ferry bound for Finland, wild child Jennifer, 16, is strangled. Who did it? Sjöberg and his squad work the case and find a boyfriend with an abusive father, two Finnish businessmen, a strange elderly man, and a younger sister living with a mother whose main priority is to party. For readers who like their mysteries to surface quickly, the slow, almost infuriating start of this book will certainly call for patience. The first third passes before anything really happens, unless one counts the strange pedophilic prologue that’s never explained. Gerhardsen piles on a boatload of named characters, with some making single-page appearances, and adds hefty doses of back story that come off like too much filler, with a surfeit of subplots making little sense in the context of the story. In the long run, the rather ineffective police investigators do little but make lists of people to question and worry endlessly about their private business.

The incoherent and poorly defined plot drowns under the weight of an ocean of unlikely coincidences.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-405-91407-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.


Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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