MURDER AT MALLOWAN HALL

Christie fans can expect a series. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Finally it can be told: One of Agatha Christie’s most popular novels was inspired by a murder at her (fictional) manor house solved by her (fictional) housekeeper.

Since Phyllida Bright was a nurse’s aide during the Great War, she doesn’t turn a hair when she discovers the body of Charles Waring, stabbed in the neck with a fountain pen. The murder is a bit of an embarrassment, though, since Waring was a guest at Mallowan Hall, though an uninvited one who’d arrived only the night before, and since he doesn’t really work, as he’d claimed, for the Times of London (which first-time novelist Cambridge calls the London Times). The mystery of who killed him seems less impenetrable than the mystery of why archaeologist Max Mallowan and his wife, famed mystery writer Agatha Christie, would have given the interloper a bed for the night and asked him to dinner with their invited guests: Paul and Amelia Hartford, Odell and Dora Budgely-Rhodes, Geoffrey and Tana Devine, and two single gentlemen, Tuddy Sloup and Stan Grimson. But Phyllida, once she gets over her initial reaction (how will they clean up those bloodstains?), briskly gets down to it, searching the forgettable guests’ rooms for incriminating evidence, questioning the Mallowans’ 14 servants for further information, and preparing an elaborately self-serving denouement, all the while overlooking the disdain of DI Cork and the severely limited participation of Mrs. Agatha, who comes across as a scatterbrain mainly interested in mining the leading situation for her vastly more successful novel The Body in the Library.

Christie fans can expect a series. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4967-3244-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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