THE PSALM KILLER

Hideously gruesome, malignantly atmospheric by-the-numbers serial killer tale, a more focused, if more predictable, second thriller from Petit (Robinson, 1994). It's 1985 in Northern Ireland, and Royal Ulster Constabulary Detective Inspector Cross is as burned-out as the bombed-out Belfast that surrounds him. Cross, a working-class English Catholic who was transferred to Belfast at the request of his politically connected Irish Protestant wife Deirdre, has just about had it when his wife announces that she is having an affair. Meanwhile, Cross finds solace in the analytical study of crime scenes, like that of a frozen, toothless male corpse that two joyriding teenagers discover along a highway. The corpse shows signs of torture, and, to complicate matters, Cross finds his investigation getting unwarranted attention from sleazy British counterintelligence agents. A scrap of paper planted in the corpse's pants pocket refers to a biblical passage and, even before the next in a series of horribly mutilated victims turns up, Cross is on the trail of a religiously inspired homicidal maniac called Candlestick (a prologue shows Candlestick initiated into his grisly specialty by a woman who finds murder erotic). Petit's Belfast is a petri dish of perversion, mayhem, and moral depravity, so it's no surprise when Cross discovers that Candlestick's talents just might have been useful to his superiors in the past. He also finds time for a brief fling with his young, tough-but-beautiful assistant, Wendy. When Candlestick kidnaps one of Cross's children to force a confrontation, Wendy cleverly disrobes, distracting the killer so that Cross can win the battle but, in an ironic twist, lose the war against the satanic political types who see Candlestick as part of a larger, drearier game. Relentlessly depressing rewrite of a rainy-day le CarrÇ spy story. The author includes an annotated bibliography to support his claim that some of his formulaic tale is true.

Pub Date: April 7, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-45126-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1997

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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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