Clunky closure for a series that’s taken on too much ballast.



Stroud wraps up his peculiar Deep South crime trilogy with a host of made men, undead men, evil spirits, and cops trying as hard as the author to hold everything together.

The third book set in the ironically named town of Niceville (Niceville, 2012; The Homecoming, 2013) opens with the police redoubling their efforts to purge the ghosts of the plantation-owning Teague family, which have sown demonic chaos locally. Rainey Teague, a 14-year-old boy seemingly recovered from possession at the end of the previous novel, has taken refuge with the family of Detective Nick Kavanaugh, but Rainey’s tossing a young boy in a river suggests all’s not well. Nick, meanwhile, has his hands full with a gruesome and inexplicable mass murder of a family, and ex-officer Charles Danziger has re-emerged from his apparent death to journey to the plantation where all this supernatural horror started. To that Stroud adds a subplot involving another cop dealing with mobsters in Florida and one mobster’s widow, Delores, using every clichéd feminine wile available to manipulate an FBI agent. Stroud’s kitchen-sink approach to plotting is almost admirably audacious, weaving in Mario Puzo, Anne Rice, and Stephen King. But the novel has the effect of random pages from each of those authors shuffled together. There are intermittent well-turned smaller scenes—Nick’s wife, Kate, confiding in their housekeeper, or Delores doting over her irksome, flatulent Chihuahua. But the overarching plot is busy and convoluted, never successfully meshing real-world bloodshed with Southern Gothic mysticism. “Maybe some kind of horrible bad evil but totally invisible demonic wasp cloud of mind-warping free-floating crazy is flying around Niceville and it drills into people’s skulls and turns them into sadistic psychokiller zombies?” a character jokingly asks. Stroud’s not joking, alas, but the story lacks the B-movie campiness such a setup deserves.

Clunky closure for a series that’s taken on too much ballast.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-101-87302-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?