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.


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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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