Veteran of three taut but traditional thrillers (with William B. Montalbo: Powder Burn, 1981; Trap Line, 1982; A Death in China, 1984), Hiaasen unveiled an original madcap voice steeped in black humor when he finally soloed in last year's satirical crimemeller, Tourist Trap. Here, he sings on in that same fine, mordant key as a Florida P.I. tackles corruption in the quirky milieu of big-time bass fishing. In Hiaasen's whacked-out world, only photographer-turned P.I., R.J. Decker and his ex-wife Catherine have their heads screwed on straight. So despite Catherine's remarriage, the two stay in close touch when Decker plunges into deep water after rich bass-fishing buff Dennis Gault hires him to prove that archrival Dickie Lockhart cheats at the fishing tourneys Lockhart invariably wins. Decker is hot-tempered and quick-fisted, but even with Catherine's help he's no match for the slew of oddball villains standing between him and a successful case: not only Lockhart and his nympho sister, Lanie; and Rev. Weeb, a TV-preacher who funds Lockhart's bass-fishing TV series and promotes condos built on PCB-riddled sludge; but also Gault's (he's a villain too, framing Decker for murder) hired thug Thomas Curl, who kidnaps Catherine while lurching around with the decaying head of a pit bull clamped onto his arm. Lucky for Decker, help comes in the Paul Bunyansized Skink, an eccentric fisherman who happens to be an incognito, embittered exgovernor of Florida. With Skink at his side, Decker exposes Lockhart as a cheat, Gault as a killer, and Weeb as a fraud—and by rescuing Catherine, rekindles their own true love. Not a perfect mystery/farce—Decker is too weak a protagonist, with trappings too standard-P.I., to properly anchor the wild goings-on. Still, with its byzantine plot and wonderful, weird denizens, this is one of the most delightfully inventive and entertaining crime novels of the year.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 1987

ISBN: 0446695661

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1987


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


A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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