An exciting debut for the third of Nickson’s Leeds-based detectives (The Tin God, 2018, etc.). Filled with his trademark...

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THE HANGING PSALM

Leeds in 1820 provides the setting for another challenging mystery.

Simon Westow has risen above his humble beginnings to make a good living as a thief-taker. He lives in a nice house with his wife, Rosie, their twin sons, and his mysterious assistant, Jane, whose ability to blend into the background is invaluable. Now, a summons from wealthy mill owner Mr. Milner to find his kidnapped daughter lands Simon and his family in deadly peril. Milner has received a note demanding the vast sum of 1,000 pounds if he wants to see his daughter, Hannah, again, and he promises Simon 200 guineas if he finds her. Not all of Simon and Jane’s many contacts can unearth Hannah before the deadline for paying the ransom, but an angry Milner tells Simon he can take his payment out of the ransom money if he recovers it. If only this were a simple kidnapping, Simon would doubtless be more successful. But it’s all part of a plot by Julius White, a man he helped catch and convict of thievery, who was packed off to Australia with a suspiciously light sentence. Simon’s shocked to learn that White is back, seeking revenge on Simon and Lizzie Henry, the woman who pressed charges against him. Even after Hannah is found, she can give little help in describing her captor. It’s soon clear that White has powerful friends who are helping to hide him while he plots and stalks his future victims. Simon and Jane pursue every possible lead, but White always seems one step ahead of them, and they’re followed and often attacked by his minions. A dangerous cat-and-mouse game ensues, with no guarantee of who will win.

An exciting debut for the third of Nickson’s Leeds-based detectives (The Tin God, 2018, etc.). Filled with his trademark social commentary and steeped in Regency atmosphere, it holds your interest from beginning to end.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8831-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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