Relax, enjoy, and marvel anew at the power of unbridled fictional invention.

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RAZOR GIRL

Rejoice, fans of American madness who’ve sought fulfillment in political reportage. South Florida’s master farceur (Skink—No Surrender, 2014, etc.) is back to reassure you that fiction is indeed stranger than truth.

Even though a prefatory note indicates that both the come-hither title and the stuff about giant Gambian pouched rats are rooted in reality, no one but Hiaasen could have dreamed up the complications arising from the collision of Merry Mansfield with talent agent Lane Coolman—a literal collision, since she rams his rented car while shaving her bikini area in the driver's seat of a Firebird. Make that multiple collisions, since Lane turns out to be only the latest victim of Merry and her partner Zeto’s kidnap-for-hire schemes. In this case, he’s the wrong victim, mistaken for beach-replenishment contractor Martin Trebeaux, whose swindling has put him on the wrong side of Calzone crime family capo Dominick "Big Noogie" Aeola. Since Coolman’s being held captive, he can’t be on hand to walk his client Buck Nance, the reality star of Bayou Brethren, though a personal appearance at the Parched Pirate, and Buck goes off script into a racist rant that sparks a demonstration and sends him fleeing, though he's still capable of inspiring Benny Krill, a murderous apprentice racist who dreams of joining him on his show. After laboring in vain to persuade Jon David Ampergrodt, his boss at Platinum Artists Management, as well as Merry and Zeto that he’s worth ransoming, Coolman escapes, but it doesn’t matter: he’s still confined in the zoo that’s Key West, where liability lawyer Brock Richardson’s fiancee loses the $200,000 ring he didn’t bother to resize after his fatter former fiancee returned it, and when his neighbor, health inspector Andrew Yancy, discovers it, he hides it in the hummus in the hope that an indefinite search for the bauble will stall Richardson’s plan to build a McMansion that will obstruct Yancy’s sea view. Etc. How can Hiaasen possibly tie together all this monkey business in the end? His delirious plotting is so fine-tuned that preposterous complications that would strain lesser novelists fit right into his antic world.

Relax, enjoy, and marvel anew at the power of unbridled fictional invention.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-34974-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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

BADLANDS

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 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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