A taut thriller well told and deftly paced; highly recommended.

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BELOW THE RADAR

WHAT WE PRETEND TO BE, WE BECOME

From the Lexie Montgomery series , Vol. 3

An undercover FBI agent enters dangerous territory physically and emotionally when her assignment to infiltrate an extremist cell results in her sympathizing with some of the group’s members.

In Ridenour’s (Beyond the Cabin, 2019, etc.) third thriller featuring FBI agent Alexis “Lexie” Montgomery, the protagonist, now age 33 and barely recovered from her last harrowing mission, ignores the advice of her therapist. Lexie agrees to infiltrate an eco-terrorist group linked to an international animal rights workshop called The Gathering. The workshop, held in the Netherlands, aims to teach the use of illegal action, such as bomb-making and countersurveillance, purportedly to save animals from suffering and exploitation. A Dutch police constable, working undercover investigating the eco-extremists for two years, has vanished, and Lexie, familiar with animal rights activists, seems perfect to learn what happened to him. Her new partner—fit, long-haired, bearded Special Agent Blake Bennett—feels attracted to her. Although initially a romance seems a slam-dunk, one of the leaders of the animal rights movement gives him some competition. Flirty, golden-skinned Holden Graham looks like a surfer and tugs at Lexie’s heartstrings, in part because he reminds her of a lost love. Others in the group appeal to the agent because of their desire to keep animals free from harm. But The Gathering is no peaceable kingdom; episodes of kidnapping, cruelty, and murder occur midbook. Teetering between tension and anticipated passion, the novel zips along. Dialogue never feels forced, and humor weaves through, as when Blake confuses a European foot wash in the men’s room with a urinal, and uses it accordingly. Descriptions of Amsterdam’s museums, bars, Magere Brug, and surrounding countryside read like a travel blog, and the author’s past life as an FBI agent brings veracity to the investigation aspects of the story. In Lexie, readers meet a well-rounded, smart, sexy character, one with a penchant for fresh-brewed coffee and Pat Conroy. Although the book works as a stand-alone, reading the three volumes in order obviously helps in the understanding of Lexie’s history and appreciation of her development as an agent and a woman. 

A taut thriller well told and deftly paced; highly recommended.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63489-224-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Wise Ink

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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