Overall, a bit more history than mystery. Choose this if you revel in atmosphere.

THE LAST PASSENGER

When a violent murder scene yields no obvious evidence, private detective Charles Lenox must solve one of his most complex cases yet.

In this third prequel to the series (The Vanishing Man, 2019, etc.), Lenox is deep in a chess match with Lord Deere, neighbor and husband to close friend Lady Jane, when Inspector Hemstock from Scotland Yard knocks on his door with news of a murder. Lenox arrives at Paddington Station soon after and meets Joseph Stanley, the stationmaster on duty, as well as the conductor of the train where the body was found. When searching the victim’s pockets reveals no form of identification, Lenox discovers that the only real clue is the lack of evidence: The murderer has gone so far as to remove the label from the victim’s suit jacket. Commissioner Sir Richard Mayne gives Lenox permission to assist with the case—an unpopular decision with most of the force. Eager to prove his value, Lenox and his butler, Graham, go in search of passengers on the train from Manchester to London and scan the papers for word of a missing person. While the Yard suspects gang involvement linked to Manchester, Lenox’s investigation places this murder on a global scale when the first person connected to the victim turns out to be American. Politics across the pond are at a boiling point, with the Abolitionist movement gaining strength and whispers of civil war growing louder by the day. The commentary around this is sobering, as it seems so far-fetched to Lenox that civil war could be a possibility, and yet….As the private detective continues to contemplate motive, he’s often distracted by Lady Jane’s attempts to find him a suitable match and end his reign as most-eligible bachelor. This subplot almost takes the spotlight away from the mystery while it provides satisfying backstory for key relationships in the series. Avid mystery readers will enjoy Lenox’s thorough review of his sleuthing process, not in the sense of “this is how I solved this” but rather “this is how I could have done better.”

Overall, a bit more history than mystery. Choose this if you revel in atmosphere.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31220-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a...

PIECES OF HER

A plain-Jane daughter’s 31st birthday celebration explodes into a nightmare within a nightmare in Slaughter’s latest stand-alone.

Andrea Oliver’s always felt inferior to her parents. Her father, Gordon Oliver, is a trusts and estates attorney; her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist. Andy herself has never aspired to any career goal higher than serving as an assistant to someone important. Even when she left Belle Isle, Georgia, for the Big Apple, she got nowhere, and she was only too eager to return home when her mother announced three years ago that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As the two women mark Andy’s birthday by sharing lunch in a mall cafe, a crazed shooter opens fire on a mother-and-daughter pair who’ve stopped to greet Laura, and Andy’s life changes in an instant. Or rather two instants, the first when the shots ring out and the second when Laura, after inviting the killer to shoot her next, coolly and dispassionately dispatches him. It takes the dazed Andy hours to realize that her mother’s not at all who she seems to be, and by the time she’s ready to accept the fact that Laura Oliver is a woman with a past, that past is already racing to catch up with both mother and daughter. Cutting back and forth between Andy’s harrowing flight to nowhere after Laura pushes her out of her home and a backstory 30 years earlier involving the Army of the Changing World, a cell of amateur terrorists determined to strike a mortal blow against greedy capitalists and, it eventually turns out, each other as well, Slaughter (The Good Daughter, 2017, etc.) never abates her trademark intensity, and fans will feel that the story is pumping adrenalin directly into their bloodstreams. Long before the end, though, the impostures, secret identities, hidden motives, and double-crosses will have piled up past the point of no return, leaving the tale to run on adrenalin alone.

Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a season ticket on a ride that never lets you off.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243027-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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