An inspired premise and compelling characters make the third in this series the best to date.

SUMMER OF SECRETS

Harrison continues the Victorian adventures of unlikely sleuths Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.

The more celebrated Dickens has taken Collins under his wing and procured an invitation for him to a house party at the estate of Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton, whose literary work leaves Collins cold. The staid party is shaken up when Lady Rosina Bulwer-Lytton arrives after a long separation, part of which she’s spent in one of those posh lunatic asylums where unhappy men hide their troublesome wives. Collins finds Rosina charming and takes her part against Bulwer-Lytton and his loathsome secretary, Tom Maguire, whom Rosina easily bests when he tries to get rid of her. Meanwhile, Dickens’ son Charley has fallen for Nelly, the lovely young actress who’s been hired along with her mother, the well-known actress Frances Jarman, to help stage one of Bulwer-Lytton’s plays, with guests playing the other parts. Taking Bulwer-Lytton’s place at the dress rehearsal, Maguire is shot dead. Was he the intended victim, or was it a case of mistaken identity? Dickens and an estate dog he befriended saved Nelly from an attempted rape by Maguire that gives Nelly one motive and Rosina another. Resolved to protect them both for different reasons, Dickens and Collins cleverly misdirect the police as they seek a satisfactory solution.

An inspired premise and compelling characters make the third in this series the best to date.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7278-9039-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

THE SCORPION'S TAIL

Past and present collide on a trail of death in the second in the authors’ Nora Kelly series, begun with Old Bones (2019).

When a local sheriff investigates the illegal activity of relic hunters in an abandoned, middle-of-nowhere New Mexico gold-mining town called High Lonesome, he discovers a mummified corpse and a fabulous cross of gold. The discovery is on federal land, so the FBI gets involved. Special Agent Corrie Swanson would have liked a juicier assignment than checking out some old bones in the high desert, but she has a degree in forensic anthropology, and she’s a rookie. She persuades a reluctant Dr. Nora Kelly, senior curator at the Santa Fe Archaeological Institute, to help puzzle out what happened to the man, as it’s unclear whether a crime has been committed. Forensics determine that the gold is slightly radioactive, and there’s a pack animal skull with a bullet hole. And by the looks of the decades-old corpse, the poor man suffered a horrible death. High Lonesome is on the Jornada del Muerto, or Dead Man’s Journey, the bleak and dismal trail that connected Mexico City and Santa Fe during Spanish colonial rule. The authors are expert plotters and storytellers with smart, engaging characters—Kelly is an experienced pro who thinks Swanson “looked very much the rookie.” Newbie Swanson had barely passed her firearms qualification, and being a lousy shot may bring tragic consequences and a guilty conscience. Luckily, Sheriff Watts has practiced his quick draw since he was a preschooler. Meanwhile, some of those relic hunters are dangerous men searching for an object—not the gold—unknown to Kelly and Swanson. To a descendant of the dead man, “most people would have thought his precious item fit only to line a henhouse with.” Expect nice twists, hairy danger, and good old-fashioned gunplay.

This one’s an attention grabber. Get a copy.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4727-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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