Although the idea isn’t original, the clever way McPherson (Quiet Neighbors, 2016, etc.) reveals each hint of the truth...

HOUSE. TREE. PERSON.

A Scottish woman’s psychological history causes her to question her sanity.

Ali and Marco McGovern are refugees from success. Both had flourishing businesses, but Marco’s highflying ambitions crashed, forcing them to sell everything and move with their 15-year-old son, Angelo, to a grungy cottage in Galloway, where Marco announces he’s found a possible job for Ali at Howell Hall, a mental institution looking for a beautician and art therapist. Despite having owned a beauty salon, Ali knows she doesn’t have the credentials, but she lets Marco pad her resume and is hired by Dr. Ferris for a salary large enough to make her suspicious. Marco too finds a job, but their celebrations end when a long-dead body is found at the nearby abbey. The police question Angelo, who often hangs out on the grounds, but can’t charge him because he was only 3 when the unidentified man was murdered. Now the boy's typical teen problems are compounded by a cruel joke played by a girl he fancies. Ali quickly makes friends with most of the Howell Hall staff but not the coldly efficient Dr. Ferris, who leaves the treatment of patients almost entirely to her husband. Ali’s drawn to Sylvie, a young woman who’s been almost catatonic for 15 years but seems taken with her. Another patient with a compelling story is Julia, who claims to have killed her father but seems at times almost too rational. Upset over Angelo’s problems with the police, Ali is aggravated by her husband’s and son's insistence that she keep calm and starts to have doubts about Marco’s reasons for getting her a job she is not equipped to do. She does not understand and is deeply hurt by an estrangement from her parents, which adds another layer to the mystery, and her stressful work makes her worry about her own mental problems, stemming from a breakdown 10 years ago. McPherson is a master at creating psychological tension and doubt about the motives of her characters, so it is no surprise that Ali thinks she hears sounds in her head and is constantly trying to overcome the sense that maybe she is actually going mad. The more details of her earlier breakdown become clear, the harder McPherson makes it to decide whether she’s mentally ill or being cruelly manipulated by unknown people for obscure reasons that will be uncovered in the denouement.

Although the idea isn’t original, the clever way McPherson (Quiet Neighbors, 2016, etc.) reveals each hint of the truth makes this a one-sitting read.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7387-5216-7

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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