An aptly crafted, riveting, and often unnerving mystery.


An orthopedic surgery resident becomes embroiled in a murder investigation when patients’ severed limbs begin turning up in this sequel.

Second-year resident Benjamin Oris is the newest addition to Dr. Kent Lock’s surgical team at Philadelphia’s Montgomery Hospital. Ben is the only member who was not a part of a humanitarian mission a month earlier; the others survived a plane crash followed by five days in the Alaskan snow. Although Ben missed that grueling experience, he does find a severed leg while hiking with his son’s mother, Sophia Diaz. Ben recognizes its tattoo as belonging to a recent patient who died shortly after receiving an orthopedic implant. But a second recovered limb (with an implant) is from a missing Montgomery Hospital patient and, based on the evidence, she’s likely a murder victim. Detectives fixate on Ben, as he was involved in a voodoo-related case years ago. But Centers for Disease Control and Prevention psychiatrist Derek Epps, who occasionally assists police, has a wild theory. The killer may believe he’s a monster, literally, and bite marks on the limbs seemingly support Derek’s conjecture. As further homicide victims had undergone surgery via Lock’s team, Ben is worried about Sophia’s imminent knee replacement, which could put her in danger of facing a psychotic killer whose savage murders are only escalating. Rubin skillfully creates indelible characters, some of whom appeared in the author’s preceding novel, The Bone Curse (2018), including Ben. In this gripping sequel, Ben has a platonic relationship with ex-lover Sophia, but the two share custody of their son and unmistakably care for each other. Other players are ambiguous, which is fitting, as Derek’s theory turns the plane crash survivors into suspects (trauma can induce psychosis, and the murderer knows about the implants). The author’s prose is sleek and organic, regarding both descriptions and punchy dialogue. But the most striking passages are from the killer’s periodic narrative perspective—disturbing thoughts from a clearly tortured mind. An open-ended conclusion, with a sprinkle of the supernatural, sets the stage for a third installment.

An aptly crafted, riveting, and often unnerving mystery. (author’s note, acknowledgements, author bio)

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 305

Publisher: Indigo Dot Press

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2020

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This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.


Past and present collide on a trail of death in the second in the authors’ Nora Kelly series, begun with Old Bones (2019).

When a local sheriff investigates the illegal activity of relic hunters in an abandoned, middle-of-nowhere New Mexico gold-mining town called High Lonesome, he discovers a mummified corpse and a fabulous cross of gold. The discovery is on federal land, so the FBI gets involved. Special Agent Corrie Swanson would have liked a juicier assignment than checking out some old bones in the high desert, but she has a degree in forensic anthropology, and she’s a rookie. She persuades a reluctant Dr. Nora Kelly, senior curator at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, to help puzzle out what happened to the man, as it’s unclear whether a crime has been committed. Forensics determine that the gold is slightly radioactive, and there’s a pack animal skull with a bullet hole. And by the looks of the decades-old corpse, the poor man suffered a horrible death. High Lonesome is on the Jornada del Muerto, or Dead Man’s Journey, the bleak and dismal trail that connected Mexico City and Santa Fe during Spanish colonial rule. The authors are expert plotters and storytellers with smart, engaging characters—Kelly is an experienced pro who thinks Swanson “looked very much the rookie.” Newbie Swanson had barely passed her firearms qualification, and being a lousy shot may bring tragic consequences and a guilty conscience. Luckily, Sheriff Watts has practiced his quick draw since he was a preschooler. Meanwhile, some of those relic hunters are dangerous men searching for an object—not the gold—unknown to Kelly and Swanson. To a descendant of the dead man, “most people would have thought his precious item fit only to line a henhouse with.” Expect nice twists, hairy danger, and good old-fashioned gunplay.

This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4727-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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