Have no fear: The Minimum Wage Manhunter eventually produces a solution as ingenious as it is unlikely.

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CLEANUP ON AISLE SIX

Forced out of his position as a shipboard waiter after three murders on his cruise ship (Sunny Side Up, 2018) roil the waters, Liam Johnson finds a new entry-level job that involves him in another homicide.

Li isn’t looking for employment at Esther’s Family Grocery, but Reuben Rodriguez, who’s already working there, is so outrageously friendly and encouraging to him that he’s soon hired by store manager Leo Lewis, ne Leonard Lewitski. He gets a considerably less warm welcome from Oscar Lindstrom, the splenetic restaurant critic who’s just left his job at the Shorewood Gazette. Li’s first meeting with Oscar ends when he dresses Oscar down for his racist insults of Reuben. Their second meeting ends with Li shouting for someone to call the police after he finds Oscar bashed to death in the grocery’s spice aisle. Except for Oscar’s adoring third wife, Kathryn Lindstrom, pretty much everyone in California seems to have hated Oscar, from Jason Lindstrom, his pitifully abused son, to Frank Dixon, his editor at the Gazette, to Constance Henderson, the mayor’s wife. Ignoring all these promising suspects, Detective Antoine Hughes becomes more and more convinced that Reuben is the killer he’s looking for, and when he detains the young man and his brother, Fernando, Li knows he has to do something to help them. But the mystery of Oscar’s death remains puzzling even though every character Stallings presents is so remarkably forthright in expressing their feelings about him—Oscar’s ex-lover Miranda Raglietti calls him “a critic to his soul,” for instance, and Jason tells Hughes, “Dad was a monster”—that the biggest mystery is how anyone could have killed him without leaving a trail a mile wide.

Have no fear: The Minimum Wage Manhunter eventually produces a solution as ingenious as it is unlikely.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61035-343-4

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Pace Press

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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