This Southern girl’s guide to murder and mayhem is good but not as snappy as it thinks it is.

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THE DEVIL'S BONES

A spa trip takes a back seat to the investigation of a murder spree in a Mississippi town.

On a girls’ trip to George County, Sarah Booth Delaney and her friends Tinkie and Cece are prepared to do nothing but relax at the superexclusive Bexley B&B and spa. As if celebrating springtime weren’t enough of an excuse for a getaway for these longtime friends, Tinkie is finally pregnant after years of trying. But trouble follows Sarah Booth wherever she goes, and not just in the form of her ancestral home Dahlia House’s resident haint, Jitty, who’s enlivening Sarah Booth’s vacation by appearing in such varied guises as Persephone and Princess Di. Jitty’s spectral presence may be a warning of the danger that looms when lawyer Perry Slay is the first in what seems like a real pileup of deaths on the trip. The most likely culprit is bachelor pharmacist Erik Ward, who until now has been known as the town’s resident dreamboat. Sarah Booth’s own dreamboat—or, as she calls him, her lover—Sheriff Coleman Peters is back home in Sunflower County, but he may be worried enough to come help when she and Tinkie agree to explore Erik’s case in their roles as the Delaney Detective Agency. Who needs a spa day when Sarah Booth and Tinkie can catch a killer?

This Southern girl’s guide to murder and mayhem is good but not as snappy as it thinks it is.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25786-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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Bohjalian manages to keep us guessing and turning pages until the very end.

THE RED LOTUS

In Bohjalian’s (The Flight Attendant, 2018, etc.) breathless thriller, the death of an American bicyclist in Vietnam sets off a race to avert further catastrophe.

Alexis, a doctor at an unnamed university hospital in Manhattan, met Austin six months ago when he came into her ER with a bullet in his arm, fired by a junkie in a bar where Austin and a chance acquaintance, Douglas, were playing darts. Austin works as a fundraiser at the same hospital. In fact, his office, significantly as we will learn, is near a rodent research lab. The present action takes place over a countdown clock of 10 days, beginning in Vietnam, where the new couple is on a bike tour. Austin goes for a solo ride, telling Alexis he wants to pay respects by visiting the locations where his uncle was killed and his father wounded during the war. When he doesn’t return, Alexis goes out looking for him, finding a few packets of energy gel that we already know Austin dropped on the road while being abducted—by Douglas. Pressing Austin for information, Douglas drives a dart into Austin’s hand. Vietnamese police discover Austin’s body and a post-mortem concludes that he was killed in a hit-and-run collision. While identifying the body, though, Alexis notices the wound on Austin’s hand and suspects foul play. Back in New York, she hires Ken, a PI, to investigate. Quang, a Vietnamese police captain, suspects that Austin was a smuggler, but of what? Alexis soon learns that Austin had lied about many things, not least his true mission in Vietnam. What characters learn, and when, is critical. Abetted by shifting points of view, seemingly disparate elements eventually converge to create a burgeoning sense of dread. Italicized, anonymous first-person comments, interspersed throughout, cite the long history of rats as quickly evolving plague carriers—most recently, of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Among many tantalizing questions: Austin’s former boss Sally is Douglas’ lover—where do her loyalties lie? In fact, whose side is Douglas on? And what is in those packets?

Bohjalian manages to keep us guessing and turning pages until the very end.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-54480-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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