The second prequel to Finch’s Victorian series (The Woman in the Water, 2018, etc.), rich in period minutiae, unveils the...

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THE VANISHING MAN

An aspiring private detective takes a case that could make or break his reputation.

London, 1853. Upper-class sleuth Charles Lenox is called to Dorset House by the duke’s private secretary, who reminds Lenox that absolute discretion will be required. The 15th Duke of Dorset, one of the most powerful noblemen in Great Britain, wants to know who stole a painting of his ancestor from his study, though he cares little about the actual painting. Lenox notices that one of the paintings still left on the wall is totally unlike all the other portraits: It’s much smaller, with a more humble subject. Only three people—one of them being Queen Victoria—know it’s the only existing oil portrait painted from life of William Shakespeare. The duke says this unbelievably valuable painting was the thief’s real target. To help him locate the missing painting, Lenox enlists the services of Thaddeus Bonden, a man who has a reputation for being able to find anything. When the duke is apparently kidnapped, Lenox deduces that Dorset faked the kidnapping to set a trap for the thief. Dorset, whose arrogance knows no bounds, is furious to be found out and insults Lenox in front of their peers at their exclusive club, White’s, badly damaging the younger man's reputation. Soon thereafter Lenox forces Dorset, who still needs his services, to call upon him and tell him the truth. Dorset agrees to show Lenox papers about a mysterious treasure that can supposedly be located by following clues hidden in the Shakespeare portrait. Before they can succeed, however, the duke is arrested and taken to the Tower of London for killing his longtime manservant, Craig, who was attempting to steal the Shakespeare portrait. Fortunately, his imprisonment does nothing to slow their plans down, for the duke is treated more as an honored guest than a felon. When Bonden discovers the whereabouts of the missing painting of Dorset’s ancestor, its surprising location helps Lenox puzzle out the shocking truth.

The second prequel to Finch’s Victorian series (The Woman in the Water, 2018, etc.), rich in period minutiae, unveils the frightening power of the uppermost classes.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-31136-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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