A sophisticated, elegantly written, intensely powerful mystery, the best of an excellent series.

A STEP SO GRAVE

An upper-crust detective tackles a case that deeply affects her own family.

It's February 1935, and Dandy Gilver (Dandy Gilver and a Spot of Toil and Trouble, 2017, etc.), her husband, Hugh, and their two sons, Donald and Teddy, have come to the remote Scottish estate of Applecross to meet the family of Donald’s intended, Mallory Dunnoch. Mallory’s mother, Lavinia, Lady Dunnoch, Viscountess Ross, is known as Lady Love. And it does indeed seem that she’s loved by all, including Donald, who clearly has a crush on her. At 30, Mallory, Lavinia’s elder daughter, is older than Donald, but Dandy comes to admire her as she gets to know her better. Lavinia’s husband, Lord Ross, has used a wheelchair ever since he was wounded during the war saving the life of the estate gardener’s son. His nurse and old pal, Dickie Tibball, is the father of Martin, who’s married to the Rosses’ younger daughter, Cherry, a partner just as devoted as Martin to managing the estate. The party assembled for Lavinia’s birthday also includes Dickie’s wife, Biddy, and Capt. David Spencer, another man in Lavinia’s thrall. Despite years of living in Scotland, Dandy’s still taken aback by local mores and frowns on Lavinia’s horticulturally rooted relationship with her gardener, Samuel McReadie, which is fueled by their mutual passion for Applecross’s stunning gardens. Although Dandy pooh-poohs several mysterious portents of danger, she agrees to wear a talisman to ward off evil. When Lavinia announces that she’s divorcing her husband and vanishes, taking her clothes and other personal property, Hugh refuses to countenance Donald's marriage and insists that his family leave the estate. No sooner have they arrived back home, however, than they’re greeted by a police inspector who announces that the unseasonable snow has melted to reveal Lavinia’s corpse in her beloved garden. The inspector is furious when the local police identify a passing tramp as her killer, a conclusion so ludicrous that Dandy and her family, joined by her fellow sleuth Alec Osborne, return to Applecross seeking the truth of a complex case steeped in folklore and family secrets.

A sophisticated, elegantly written, intensely powerful mystery, the best of an excellent series.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-473-68235-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mobius

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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