Stock characters still offer oodles of charisma in a neat combination of mystery and romance.

MURDER AT BLACKWATER BEND

A spirited American heiress who’s shocked the stuffy Edwardian aristocracy turns to detection once more.

Stella Kendrick’s social-climbing father has arranged her marriage to Viscount “Lyndy” Lyndhurst, whose financially strapped family needs an infusion of filthy lucre. The couple unexpectedly find themselves falling in love, but Stella is constantly criticized by Lyndy’s mother, Lady Atherly, who’d much prefer the beautiful, sly Lady Phillipa Fairbrother as a daughter-in-law. As Stella rushes off from a party, her beloved horse is bitten by an adder. Harvey Milkham, aka the snakecatcher, saves the horse but returns home to find his cottage destroyed by a fire he blames on Lord Fairbrother. Much to the annoyance of breeder George Parley, Fairbrother’s inferior pony wins the 1905 New Forest Pony Challenge Cup. So when Stella finds Fairbrother murdered while fishing with Lyndy, Parley is an obvious suspect. When Lady Phillipa is informed of Fairbrother’s death, she accuses Harvey even as she remains remarkably undisturbed. Watching Phillipa use one of Lyndy’s handkerchiefs to wipe away her crocodile tears, Stella wonders if she’s been mistaken in his feelings for her. Unwilling to see Harvey falsely accused, Stella puts her working relationship with Inspector Brown to good use. She and Lyndy nose around and shortly uncover plenty of surprising motives for murder.

Stock characters still offer oodles of charisma in a neat combination of mystery and romance.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4967-1778-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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A top-class cozy infused with dry wit and charming characters who draw you in and leave you wanting more, please.

THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB

Four residents of Coopers Chase, a British retirement village, compete with the police to solve a murder in this debut novel.

The Thursday Murder Club started out with a group of septuagenarians working on old murder cases culled from the files of club founder Elizabeth Best’s friend Penny Gray, a former police officer who's now comatose in the village's nursing home. Elizabeth used to have an unspecified job, possibly as a spy, that has left her with a large network of helpful sources. Joyce Meadowcroft is a former nurse who chronicles their deeds. Psychiatrist Ibrahim Arif and well-known political firebrand Ron Ritchie complete the group. They charm Police Constable Donna De Freitas, who, visiting to give a talk on safety at Coopers Chase, finds the residents sharp as tacks. Built with drug money on the grounds of a convent, Coopers Chase is a high-end development conceived by loathsome Ian Ventham and maintained by dangerous crook Tony Curran, who’s about to be fired and replaced with wary but willing Bogdan Jankowski. Ventham has big plans for the future—as soon as he’s removed the nuns' bodies from the cemetery. When Curran is murdered, DCI Chris Hudson gets the case, but Elizabeth uses her influence to get the ambitious De Freitas included, giving the Thursday Club a police source. What follows is a fascinating primer in detection as British TV personality Osman allows the members to use their diverse skills to solve a series of interconnected crimes.

A top-class cozy infused with dry wit and charming characters who draw you in and leave you wanting more, please.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-98-488096-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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