A detective story that’s more about the detective than the story, but the protagonist’s personal drive and all-around appeal...

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JUSTICE AND CLOSURE

In Pastre’s debut thriller, an Arizona cop digs into a cold case involving a missing 16-year-old girl and a potential killer who’s evaded justice for more than a decade.

Detective Nick Shaw of the Verde River Police Department isn’t sure what to make of a handwritten note found in an old car undergoing restoration. It appears to be an aborted murder confession, but it discloses neither the writer nor the apparent victim. Nick, however, quickly sets his sights on Charles Thurston, the car’s original owner, whose stepdaughter, Jamie, was reported missing about a decade earlier, about the same time as the note was dated. The detective and other police officers, going with the assumption that Jamie is dead, re-examine the case, and it’s fairly obvious that they’re getting a little too close to the truth when one cop is assaulted and another is shot. The investigation ultimately finds Nick chasing a murderer all the way to El Salvador. The novel begins as a typical detective story—a man walks into the police department with evidence that reignites a cold case—but it’s more about Nick’s ensuring that a criminal pay for his crimes. Nick’s incentive for solving the murder is both considerable and convincing; he sees his wife’s death from a traffic accident as murder, with the drunken driver as a killer who’s escaped major punishment. The investigation itself is less cogent; it’s unclear why the original inquiry never made headway since the notoriously unpleasant and reputedly abusive Thurston would have been a viable suspect back then. But the cast, like the protagonist, is wonderfully nuanced—Nick’s idle partner, Beau, who spends most of his time on smoke breaks or at lunch; Lacey, Nick’s love interest, who adorns herself in vintage apparel; and the easily stressed police chief, Pritchett, whose secretary reminds him of his blood pressure and who tries relaxing with aromatherapy. We learn the killer’s identity well before the ending, along with an explanation of what exactly happened to Jamie, but the third act, quite fittingly, concentrates on character, as Nick’s major hurdles by this point are meting out justice and deciding for himself if he has fallen in love with Lacey.

A detective story that’s more about the detective than the story, but the protagonist’s personal drive and all-around appeal are ample enticements for readers.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494719821

Page Count: 296

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2014

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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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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