SIGNAL TO NOISE

A mildly atmospheric snapshot of San Francisco's techno- publishing scene goes downhill fast when it devolves into a breathless kidnapping/romance. Jim Knight is talented, driven, and terminally stodgy: As the features editor of Signal magazine, he's scornful of interns and a slave to his e-mail. One fateful night when his relentlessly upwardly mobile fiancÇe is out of town, he goes to a scruffy party in hopes of hooking up with a famous novelist whom he wants a favor from. By a complicated chain of events, he ends up back at his own place with a pack of fun-seekers (not his usual gang), which includes 24-year-old Kat, aspiring writer and `zine intern, who's terminally insecure, attractive, and smart. Many drinks later, Jim is off feeling sick somewhere when Kat idly uses his computer to log onto a gambling website, where she proceeds to rack up almost $200,000 in debt. Jim wakes up the next morning tormented by a wicked hangover and baffled by threatening e-mail from the ``casino manager.'' Having little memory of the previous night, he pursues Kat, who shows up at his gig (he's also a jazz musician) the following night, glimpses his artist side—and falls for him. Then some shady characters start chasing the two; Kat's apartment building burns down; Jim finds himself increasingly on the outs at work and with his fiancÇe; and finally, he and Kat are kidnapped by emissaries of the casino, who drive them to a trailer park where they're held captive by an unsavory bunch. Various tepid adventures and quasi-escapes later, Kat's ingenuity springs the pair—though both must change and grow before they can resume their romance. First-novelist/cyber-celeb Sinclair (the nonfiction Net Chick, not reviewed) is engaging when she's sketching the clothes, lunch hangouts, and familiar ambitions of this self-consciously cutting- edge scene. It's the desperate criminals and the heated flirting that induce boredom.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-06-251533-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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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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