Thrilling addition to the field of mystery series featuring strong female protagonists; hopefully, Allison Baca’s future...

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TOO CLOSE TO HOME

AN ALLISON BACA MYSTERY

A retired cop must unravel a gritty mystery before assassins hired to kill her finish the job.

Allison Baca’s abrupt retirement from the San Francisco police was newsworthy enough; the local media enjoyed dealing with the beautiful, talented spokesperson. But Allison soon makes the news for another reason—killing her attempted murderer in her living room. Recovering from her injuries at her parents’ home, Allison investigates the link between her attack and an earlier meeting with a pedophile developer, Paul Albert, who expressed interest in hiring her as a private investigator. Allison’s gruesome discovery, quickly followed by a second attempt on her life, draws her former boss—and the principal reason for her resignation—Lt. Phillip McCarthy deeper into the case, and into Allison’s life. In a decision that will raise warning flags in the mind of anyone who has ever seen a horror movie, McCarthy, Allison and her father Ross travel to the family’s remote mountain cabin (with limited cell coverage) for Allison’s protection. Unbeknownst to them, Allison’s third potential hitman is very familiar with the area and seems destined to meet with success. Told from multiple points of view, the novel is an engrossing, fast-paced page-turner. Smith even manages to imbue the hitmen with sympathetic qualities. Smith touches upon many seamier aspects of 21st century crime—pedophilia, human trafficking, meth addiction and Aryan gangs—Smith doesn’t lose touch with of a traditional mystery/thriller. Portions of the plot may require some suspension of disbelief; it’s never clear how Allison and McCarthy transition so quickly from adversaries to potential lovers, for example. But Smith demonstrates such skill in building suspense, such as when Ross and McCarthy’s dithering on their approach to the cabin leaves Allison vulnerable, that readers will be captivated regardless.

Thrilling addition to the field of mystery series featuring strong female protagonists; hopefully, Allison Baca’s future cases will be as enjoyable as this one.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1466382817

Page Count: -

Publisher: Smashwords

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2011

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

THINGS IN JARS

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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