Knopf balances the usual Long Island byplay with an unflinching look at Puerto Rico’s distress.

DEEP DIVE

A houseguest’s fatal plunge from a neighbor’s second-story window spells trouble for Southampton carpenter/private eye Sam Acquillo and even bigger trouble for one of his closest friends.

Billionaire attorney/philanthropist Burton Lewis says he doesn’t remember the events that left Elton Darby dead in Joshua and Rosie Edelstein’s rhododendrons. But since Darby is still clutching Burton’s Patek Philippe in his fist, the police swiftly come up with a theory of his death that’s circumstantially confirmed by the accounts of the Edelsteins and Violeta Zaragoza, their Puerto Rican housekeeper. Hauled off in handcuffs, Burton makes bail with the push of a button on his cellphone, but he’s still on the hook for the murder of Darby, a staffer for the charity Volunteering with Love, aka the Loventeers. So Sam, whose search for the quiet life seems eternally doomed to failure (Tango Down, 2017, etc.), follows a trail that first appears when he’s suavely threatened by Art Reynolds, the attorney who chairs the Loventeers board, and Mikolaj Galecki, his hulking, multilingual personal assistant, and realizes that the FBI also has a strongly possessive interest in the case. Since there’s nothing like threats and official warnings to rev Sam’s engine, he’s soon headed for Puerto Rico on the strength of a cryptic tip, with the plan of masquerading as a carpenter—call it method acting—in order to infiltrate the local chapter of the Loventeers, which definitely needs and rewards infiltration. From the dedication to the closing acknowledgments, Knopf clearly intends Sam’s ninth adventure as a valentine to the island, and the long sequence set there, emphasizing the ways the struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria are heightened by long-standing corruption, is the clear highlight of this installment. Only when Sam high-tails it back to Long Island as if suddenly remembering that his No. 1 job is not to investigate the Loventeers but to clear his old friend do things settle into a more familiar, though hardly a reassuring, groove.

Knopf balances the usual Long Island byplay with an unflinching look at Puerto Rico’s distress.

Pub Date: July 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-57962-571-9

Page Count: 268

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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