An entertaining mystery propelled by a hero to be savored, a smart, gentle cynic who comfortably interacts with both expats...

RESTAURANTE OAXACA

From the Santo Gordo Mysteries series , Vol. 3

Robert “Roberto” Evans, aka Santo Gordo, once again becomes embroiled in a battle not of his own choosing, this time against a gang of thieves and murderers.

This third volume of Kerns’ (Oaxaca Chocolate, 2016, etc.) Santo Gordo Mysteries opens with Roberto, an overweight American expatriate in his mid-60s, heading back from a mountain hideout in Mexico. He needed to recuperate from his last adventure and wait for the blowback caused by the death of a fellow expat to die down. Convinced that he can no longer remain in his beloved Oaxaca, Roberto now decides it is time to return to the United States. His plan is interrupted on the bus ride back to town when he witnesses a robbery that results in the murder of a police officer. It turns out that the policeman is a relative of Efraím, Roberto’s best friend and crime-solving partner. Efraím, a taxi driver who, through his network of fellow taxistas, knows everything and everyone in the small city, catches Roberto just before he boards a plane: “Come. I need you. Now—emergency—quick.” The improbable sleuth is back in the game. They hatch a plan to catch the thug who killed Efraím’s cousin, with Roberto the bait to lure him into a trap. Fans of the series will know that a more complicated crime is yet to be uncovered. The colors, smells, music, and especially the food of Oaxaca and its surrounding villages jump off the pages in this tale. The pace remains leisurely. Roberto walks slowly; he takes the time to study the streets, the architecture, the people; he needs his afternoon naps; and he never misses an opportunity to eat. Kerns offers some background for new readers of the delightful series, and this novel, a bit more plot-driven than the earlier ones, can be read as a stand-alone. But it is best enjoyed after reading the previous volumes, starting with the opener (Santo Gordo: A Killing in Oaxaca, 2016) when Santo Gordo first earned his moniker. 

An entertaining mystery propelled by a hero to be savored, a smart, gentle cynic who comfortably interacts with both expats and locals.

Pub Date: July 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5352-0026-4

Page Count: 210

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 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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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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