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

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CINDERELLA GIRL

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.

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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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