A satisfying read with plenty of bad guys and a solid, well-defined heroine.

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King Peso

From the Detective Emilia Cruz series , Vol. 4

Emilia Cruz Encinos is back for her fourth outing as Acapulco’s only female detective, once again confronting institutionalized corruption while trying to solve a string of murders.

Amato (Diablo Nights, 2014, etc.) skillfully juxtaposes the Mexican city of Acapulco’s glittering, wealthy enclaves with its seamy, violent underbelly. Emilia inhabits both worlds, albeit uncomfortably: she hails from the poor side of town but now lives in a lavish penthouse suite with her American boyfriend, Kurt Rucker, the general manager of the Palacio Réal hotel. Their evolving, and occasionally devolving, relationship runs throughout the series. This installment opens with the city’s police department reeling from the execution-style killings of three high-ranking law enforcement officials, which the press has labeled “the El Trio murders.” By the end of the first chapter, the wife of senior detective Franco Silvio is shot. But is this an attempted fourth El Trio killing, a byproduct of Silvio’s own illegal bookie operation, or a case of domestic violence? Meanwhile, the glamorous mayor of Acapulco, Carlota Montoya Perez, improbably decides to deal with the spate of recent violence by forming an all-female auxiliary unit—Las Palomas (“the doves of peace”), dedicated to creating an aura of calm in the tourist areas. Emilia, much to her displeasure, is transferred out of the detective squad and tasked with selecting and readying a troop of untrained recruits. Amato weaves an intricate assortment of themes into a vivid tapestry that depicts both the beauty and ugliness of Acapulco. Her attention to clothing, food, and other details of the cityscape brings life to her characters. In one memorable moment, for example, Emilia encounters a band of young street boys with plastic soda bottles hanging around their necks, just below their chins; the bottles are filled with glue, which the boys sniff throughout the day: “The high from the glue cut hunger pangs and diluted the misery and loneliness of being homeless in a combat zone.” There’s as much dialogue and pondering as there is action in this novel, but the investigative pace holds steady, with danger and betrayal never more than a few pages away.

A satisfying read with plenty of bad guys and a solid, well-defined heroine.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5374-3328-8

Page Count: 364

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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