A California mystery in which the consequences of murders are just as chilling as the killings themselves.

Ten Percent -Hollywood Can Be Murder

Actors and agents struggle to find success in the film and television industry while a serial killer makes his way through Hollywood in Bruin’s (The Christopher Factor, 2003) thriller.

After a decade of running her own talent agency, Shelly Monroe may have found her path to the top with rising star Cody Clifton. She scores him a television gig, resulting in a hefty paycheck for both of them; sure enough, the new series is a bona fide hit, and Cody becomes a hot commodity. Shelly fields numerous offers and tries to keep her golden goose happy as he adjusts to his grueling work schedule. Meanwhile, Los Angeles Police Department homicide detectives Maxine “Max” Calderas and Greg London hunt a serial murderer that the media calls “The Coyote,” who leaves his strangled victims covered in bite marks. The two stories eventually collide, but the author seems more invested in relaying a Hollywood tale than a murder mystery. The storyline involving Shelly and Cody isn’t particularly scathing, but it does offer an unvarnished glimpse of the TV world, minus all the glamour. Cody, for example, works 15-hour days, and the chance for time off diminishes when the show gets an extended episode order and a feature film awaits him. At the same time, his actor pal Jimmy Bodine toils away on a low-budget movie sequel for a lot less money and even less recognition. The novel’s thriller side can be predictable; Bruin only lines up a couple of suspects, and the murderer’s ultimate reveal isn’t shocking. However, the story does stay on point, as it’s about selling people like products—and if that person happens to be a serial killer, then so be it. A few characters get back stories, and although Max is typically sidelined by the Hollywood hubbub, her intellect (and chic archery skills) leaves indelible marks. Bruin’s views of both the industry and the investigation aren’t as dark as readers may expect—the murders are largely off-screen—but the ending is unnerving nonetheless.

A California mystery in which the consequences of murders are just as chilling as the killings themselves.

Pub Date: March 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9743479-0-5

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Buccaneer Entertainment, Inc

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2015

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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 suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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