A pleasantly entertaining whodunit but one that breaks little new ground.


The death of a prominent businessman threatens to destroy a dysfunctional family in Brantmeyer’s debut mystery set in the near future.

It’s 2028, and Big Al Washington is a successful car salesman who’s made a fortune selling cars with his colorful personality and unique commercials. But at 85 years old, he’s ready to step aside and hand the family business over to his grandson, Luke—until he realizes that Luke just isn’t the right fit for the job. But before Al can let the family know he’s pulling the plug on Luke’s promotion, the old man suddenly dies. The events that follow throw the family into chaos, as poison is found in Al’s system and no one can receive their inheritance until the cause of death is settled. No one is above suspicion, and it falls to Al’s lawyer and fixer, Larry Bridges, to sort out the mess. He recruits Al’s estranged daughter, Alice, to help resolve the mystery and agrees to let his own daughter and aspiring investigator, Emily, assist with the investigation. Brantmeyer’s novel presents a familiar tale complete with family secrets, blackmail, and murder. The author’s decision to set the novel eight years from now is an effective one, however; it depicts a future in which the service industry has been gutted and autonomous cars are commonplace, providing an excellent source of tension for the Washington family business. None of the characters are particularly likable, although some are more intriguing than others. Luke comes off as a one-dimensional trust-fund baby, but Alice is given more complex characterization as an alcoholic who was sent away 15 years ago after she came out as gay. Although her role as an outsider could have been more fully explored, her investigative exploits with Emily are among the novel’s high points.

A pleasantly entertaining whodunit but one that breaks little new ground.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73525-990-1

Page Count: 284

Publisher: Ready Demolition Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2020

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Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.


Patterson and Ellis put their characters through hell in this hard-edged second installment of their Black Book series after The Black Book (2017).

A young girl is one of four people gunned down in a “very, very bad” K-Town drive-by shooting in Chicago. Police are under intense political pressure to solve it, so Detective Billy Harney is assigned to the Special Operations Section to put the brakes on the gang violence on the West Side. His new partner is Detective Carla Griffin, whom colleagues describe as “sober as an undertaker” and “as fun as a case of hemorrhoids.” And she looks like the last thing he needs, a pill popper. (But is she?) Department muckety-mucks want Harney to fail, and Griffin is supposed to spy on him. The poor guy already has a hell of a backstory: His daughter died and his wife committed suicide (or did she?) four years earlier, he’s been shot in the head, charged with murder (and exonerated), and helped put his own father in prison. (Nothing like a tormented hero!) Now the deaths still haunt him while he and Griffin begin to suspect they’re not looking at a simple turf war starring the Imperial Gangster Nation. Meanwhile, the captain in Internal Affairs is deep in the pocket of some bad guys who run an international human trafficking ring, and he loathes Harney. The protagonist is lucky to have Patti, his sister and fellow detective, as his one reliable friend who lets him know he’s being set up. The authors do masterful work creating flawed characters to root for or against, and they certainly pile up the troubles for Billy Harney. Abundant nasty twists will hold readers’ rapt attention in this dark, violent, and fast-moving thriller.

Top-drawer crime fiction. The authors are tough on the hero, but the hero is tough.

Pub Date: March 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-49940-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.


In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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