Nickson's latest and perhaps finest is a breathless race for the truth from start to finish.

THE LEADEN HEART

As Britain teeters on the brink of the Boer War, the Leeds police force braces in the expectation of losing too many men just when its caseload seems impossible to manage.

The summer of 1899 is blazing hot in Leeds, adding more misery for the populace and complicating several nasty cases Superintendent Tom Harper has on his plate. His wife, Annabelle, who serves on the board of the guardians of the poor, is deeply frustrated by her inability to get the condescending men to listen to any of her ideas for improvements. The well-off are being burglarized by someone who shinnies up drainpipes while the occupants are out and helps themselves to cash and jewelry. When Harper's old friend Billy Reed, who now does his policing in Whitby, comes to town after his brother Charlie commits suicide, his visit leads to a dark and dangerous case. Reed discovers that Charlie was being squeezed by a landlord who suddenly doubled the rent on his little corner shop. An investigation reveals that shops and houses are being bought up at suspiciously low prices by the Harehills Development Company so that the son-in-law of a town councilor can build new houses. Harehills is a front for the North Leeds Company, whose lawyer is able to hide the firm’s real ownership. Charlie’s shop is trashed and his wife, Hester, beaten by two big men, possibly John and Jack Smith, an elusive pair who’ll stop at nothing. Then Hester is found dead, and an autopsy shows that she was smothered. When two of the most dishonest among the council members insist on Harper’s ouster, he and the Chief Constable suspect the councillors are involved in the vicious scheme. Another fatality chalked up to the Smiths urges the force go all out to close the case. Nickson (The Hanging Psalm, 2019, etc.) is a master at mixing social commentary with police procedurals; he digs deep into the backgrounds of his characters and highlights the inequalities so common to the Industrial Revolution while deftly handling several troubling cases.

Nickson's latest and perhaps finest is a breathless race for the truth from start to finish.

Pub Date: July 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8879-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution...

ROSES ARE RED

Who’s robbing all those banks and kidnapping all those people and killing all those accomplices? It’s somebody calling himself the Mastermind—a comic-book sobriquet that represents everything that’s wrong with the latest installment in Patterson’s Alex Cross franchise.

A young woman robs a bank in suburban Maryland and threatens to kill the manager’s family if she’s kept from meeting her timetable. She’s less than a minute late out the door, so the family dies. So does the robber. So do all the staff at a second bank after somebody tips the police off. Who could possibly be so ruthless? It’s the Mastermind, the evil genius who set up both robberies intending murder from the beginning—even warning the cops the second time. And robbing banks is only the beginning for the megalomaniac, who’s plotting a group abduction worth $30 million and a series of maneuvers that’ll feed his cat’s-paws to the police, or to the fishes. And since the Mastermind likes to see families suffer, he vows to take the war of nerves right to forensic psychologist Cross. But if he wants to ruin the D.C. detective’s life, he’ll have to stand in line, since Cross’s girlfriend Christine Johnson is pulling away from him and his daughter Jannie is suddenly having seizures. Despite his prowess with guns and fists, and his awesome insight into other people’s minds, Cross would be desperate if it weren’t for the timely embraces of FBI agent Betsey Cavalierre, to whom he’ll make passionate love while telling her, “I like being with you. A lot. Even more than I expected.” With an adversary like that, how can the Mastermind prevail?

As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution unclouded by texture, thought, or moral complexity, to produce the speediest tosh on the planet.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2000

ISBN: 0-316-69325-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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