A REASON TO KILL

In this mystery series debut, Andi Battaglia conducts her first murder investigation for the Burgess Beach Police Department in Florida, uncovering the secrets of a volunteer group of wildlife supporters.
Andi is looking at the putrid body of retired botany professor Max Denman, the first death she has been called in on since joining the police force in Burgess Beach, Florida. She suspects that Denman, who friends say was sickly not long before he died, didn’t die of natural causes. Discovering that Denman, the night before, was one of the handful of museum volunteers who observed and protected sea turtles as the creatures laid eggs on the beach, she proceeds to interview the other members of the group. While all claim they didn’t know Denman prior to volunteering, some still seem shifty. Volunteer Mara Phillips, the shaky, alcoholic shop assistant now dating the museum’s sea turtle expert, ends up being connected to the Boston family that became the surprising beneficiary of Denman’s fortune. Scared that she’ll be charged with the crime, Mara conducts her own investigation and travels to Denman’s former university in Wisconsin. Andi continues her own detective work, which includes determining if a venture capital firm involved with Denman’s research might be behind the homicide. She also dodges calls from her married policeman lover back in Tampa, deals with her mother’s breast cancer surgery and becomes acquainted with an attractive new male colleague. Then another volunteer is slain, catapulting Andi and Mara into a dramatic showdown with the finally revealed killer. In this debut tale, novelist Sojka brings a wry eye to life in Florida. Her mystery has several good twists and turns, and some of the volunteers wrestle with rather amusing desperations, including having to battle the boredom of retirement. Andi has an enjoyable Columbo-like quality, asking matter-of-fact questions and then watching suspects squirm. While it’s a bit surprising that Mara rises to be a rather savvy sleuth, one hopes that she and Andi join forces in future adventures.

Promising launch of an appealing contemporary female detective series set in the Sunshine State.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1499761276

Page Count: 322

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2014

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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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