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.


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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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