A strong mystery that clearly shows some secrets, like a few bodies, can’t stay buried.

AIN'T NOTHIN' PERSONAL (AN EMMETT HARDY MYSTERY)

A small-town Oklahoma cop in the mid-1960s investigates a supposed decades-old triple homicide—killings that may implicate a member of his own family.

In Kelsey’s third installment of a mystery series, Chief Emmett Hardy, on leave from the police force following a breakdown and a bout with alcoholism, goes to the state penitentiary at the request of dying prisoner Rufus Kenworthy. Kenworthy wants to “get right with the Lord” by confessing something big to Hardy. The crime involves the mixed-race Younger family. Townspeople believe Clarence Younger and his wife and son fled years ago after their home was torched by racists, but Kenworthy claims that after the fire, the three were murdered and their bodies dumped in the town lake. Kenworthy implies Hardy’s widowed father, who now deals with memory issues, was involved. Or could Kenworthy have confused Hardy’s dad with his father’s older brother, Ernest, who now works for mobsters in New York City? After asking local police and other townspeople to fill in the blanks in Kenworthy’s story, Hardy temporarily lands in the trunk of a car. Along with a dangerous professional life, he has a complicated personal one. Hardy’s lover, Karen Dean, who wears nightwear as “sexy as a repurposed feed bag,” works as a local police officer while his estranged, free-spirited wife, Sophie, lives in New York. She’s a journalist who sidelines playing drums in Greenwich Village jazz clubs. While in New York to find his uncle, Hardy looks up Sophie—and she hits all the right notes. The change of scenery to the big city opens up the story. The book—a smooth melding of mystery and historical fiction—details racial and policing issues that remain to this day. Kelsey deftly captures small-town life of over 50 years ago, and he doesn’t shy away from the most brutal actions of the Ku Klux Klan in the ’30s. The author succinctly recaps the previous volume in the series, which resulted in Hardy’s leave from the force. Other pluses that are woven throughout the engaging tale are references to music—a jazz fan, Hardy plays the horn—and to the hero’s beloved yellow Lab, Dizzy.

A strong mystery that clearly shows some secrets, like a few bodies, can’t stay buried.

Pub Date: May 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68-433702-6

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2021

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

DREAM TOWN

An old-fashioned gumshoe yarn about Hollywood dreams and dead bodies.

Private investigator Aloysius Archer celebrates New Year’s Eve 1952 in LA with his gorgeous lady friend and aspiring actress Liberty Callahan. Screenwriter Eleanor Lamb shows up and offers to hire him because “someone might be trying to kill me.” “I’m fifty a day plus expenses,” he replies, but money’s no obstacle. Later, he sneaks into Lamb’s house and stumbles upon a body, then gets knocked out by an unseen assailant. Archer takes plenty of physical abuse in the story, but at least he doesn’t get a bullet between the eyes like the guy he trips over. A 30-year-old World War II combat veteran, Archer is a righteous and brave hero. Luck and grit keep him alive in both Vegas and the City of Angels, which is rife with gangsters and crooked cops. Not rich at all, his one luxury is the blood-red 1939 Delahaye he likes to drive with the top down. He’d bought it with his gambling winnings in Reno, and only a bullet hole in the windscreen post mars its perfection. Liberty loves Archer, but will she put up with the daily danger of losing him? Why doesn’t he get a safe job, maybe playing one of LA’s finest on the hit TV show Dragnet? Instead, he’s a tough and principled idealist who wants to make the world a better place. Either that or he’s simply a “pavement-pounding PI on a slow dance to maybe nowhere.” And if some goon doesn’t do him in sooner, his Lucky Strikes will probably do him in later. Baldacci paints a vivid picture of the not-so-distant era when everybody smoked, Joe McCarthy hunted commies, and Marilyn Monroe stirred men’s loins. The 1950s weren’t the fabled good old days, but they’re fodder for gritty crime stories of high ideals and lowlifes, of longing and disappointment, and all the trouble a PI can handle.

Well-done crime fiction. Baldacci nails the noir.

Pub Date: April 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1977-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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