This historical tour de force reminds readers who come for the mystery that life hasn’t changed for the disenfranchised.

THE HOCUS GIRL

A thief-taker—someone hired to “find what had been stolen and return it for a fee”—and his assistant risk their lives to help friends.

In 1822, Leeds is already crowded with factories staffed by the desperately poor, and the wealthy owners are worried about revolution. Although thief-taker Simon Westow and his wife, Rosie, understand what it’s like to have nothing, they’ve made a good life for themselves, their twin boys, and Simon’s assistant, Jane, who lives in their house. Simon and Rosie know nothing of Jane’s past but recognize her ghostlike abilities and her skill with a knife as valuable assets in solving mysteries (The Hanging Psalm, 2018). Siblings Emily and Davey Ashton often fed and housed Simon when he was a penniless teen. So when Davey, who dreams of equality, is arrested for sedition, Simon will stop at nothing to save him. Ambitious magistrate Thomas Curzon seems to be spying on and arresting people who protest the awful conditions they must endure; his vicious bodyguard, Whittaker, does the dirty work. Busy with well-paid jobs of recovering stolen property from people like Charlotte Winter, a hocus girl who drugs men and steals their valuables, Simon resolves to track down the spy who helps Curzon get people arrested on bogus charges. In this he’s helped by Jane’s uncanny ability to know when she’s being followed. He finally hears about Dodd, a mysterious suspect who’s traveling with a woman. But this intelligence comes too late to stop Whittaker from going on a killing spree simply because he enjoys it. Soon after Jane removes her savings from a box she’d hidden in the woods and brings it to the home of Catherine Shields, a motherly woman who's the only person she loves, she sees Charlotte digging up the empty box. When Catherine, who refuses to reveal the hiding place, is beaten by the thief, Jane cannot fathom how anyone could know her secret. Using every resource at their command, she and Simon work to free Davey and take revenge on the people who are killing to cover up myriad crimes.

This historical tour de force reminds readers who come for the mystery that life hasn’t changed for the disenfranchised.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8935-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

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THE WATER DANCER

The celebrated author of Between the World and Me (2015) and We Were Eight Years in Power (2017) merges magic, adventure, and antebellum intrigue in his first novel.

In pre–Civil War Virginia, people who are white, whatever their degree of refinement, are considered “the Quality” while those who are black, whatever their degree of dignity, are regarded as “the Tasked.” Whether such euphemisms for slavery actually existed in the 19th century, they are evocatively deployed in this account of the Underground Railroad and one of its conductors: Hiram Walker, one of the Tasked who’s barely out of his teens when he’s recruited to help guide escapees from bondage in the South to freedom in the North. “Conduction” has more than one meaning for Hiram. It's also the name for a mysterious force that transports certain gifted individuals from one place to another by way of a blue light that lifts and carries them along or across bodies of water. Hiram knows he has this gift after it saves him from drowning in a carriage mishap that kills his master’s oafish son (who’s Hiram’s biological brother). Whatever the source of this power, it galvanizes Hiram to leave behind not only his chains, but also the two Tasked people he loves most: Thena, a truculent older woman who practically raised him as a surrogate mother, and Sophia, a vivacious young friend from childhood whose attempt to accompany Hiram on his escape is thwarted practically at the start when they’re caught and jailed by slave catchers. Hiram directly confronts the most pernicious abuses of slavery before he is once again conducted away from danger and into sanctuary with the Underground, whose members convey him to the freer, if funkier environs of Philadelphia, where he continues to test his power and prepare to return to Virginia to emancipate the women he left behind—and to confront the mysteries of his past. Coates’ imaginative spin on the Underground Railroad’s history is as audacious as Colson Whitehead’s, if less intensely realized. Coates’ narrative flourishes and magic-powered protagonist are reminiscent of his work on Marvel’s Black Panther superhero comic book, but even his most melodramatic effects are deepened by historical facts and contemporary urgency.

An almost-but-not-quite-great slavery novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-59059-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

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LONG RANGE

Once again, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett gets mixed up in a killing whose principal suspect is his old friend Nate Romanowski, whose attempts to live off the grid keep breaking down in a series of felony charges.

If Judge Hewitt hadn’t bent over to pick up a spoon that had fallen from his dinner table, the sniper set up nearly a mile from his house in the gated community of the Eagle Mountain Club would have ended his life. As it was, the victim was Sue Hewitt, leaving the judge alive and free to rail and threaten anyone he suspected of the shooting. Incoming Twelve Sleep County Sheriff Brendan Kapelow’s interest in using the case to promote his political ambitions and the judge’s inability to see further than his nose make them the perfect targets for a frame-up of Nate, who just wants to be left alone in the middle of nowhere to train his falcons and help his bride, Liv Brannon, raise their baby, Kestrel. Nor are the sniper, the sheriff, and the judge Nate’s only enemies. Orlando Panfile has been sent to Wyoming by the Sinaloan drug cartel to avenge the deaths of the four assassins whose careers Nate and Joe ended last time out (Wolf Pack, 2019). So it’s up to Joe, with some timely data from his librarian wife, Marybeth, to hire a lawyer for Nate, make sure he doesn’t bust out of jail before his trial, identify the real sniper, who continues to take an active role in the proceedings, and somehow protect him from a killer who regards Nate’s arrest as an unwelcome complication. That’s quite a tall order for someone who can’t shoot straight, who keeps wrecking his state-issued vehicles, and whose appalling mother-in-law, Missy Vankeuren Hand, has returned from her latest European jaunt to suck up all the oxygen in Twelve Sleep County to hustle some illegal drugs for her cancer-stricken sixth husband. But fans of this outstanding series will know better than to place their money against Joe.

One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53823-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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