Familiar premise, busy plotting, stock characters. As usual, Hoagy’s narration is the bright spot in a tangle of intrigue...

THE MAN WHO COULDN'T MISS

Summer 1993 finds sometime novelist Stewart “Hoagy” Hoag back at work on a new book, happily resident on his ex-wife Merilee Nash’s Connecticut farm, but unable to kick his fatal attraction toward inconvenient corpses in awkward places.

While Hoagy types furiously, Merilee’s taking time out from her Hollywood career to organize a fundraiser on behalf of the storied Sherbourne Playhouse. The weather forecast for the one-night-only benefit staging of Private Lives is dire, but that doesn’t deter Merilee or her co-stars—hunky Greg Farber, his wife, Dini Hawes, and womanizing Marty Miller—from learning their lines and mastering Noel Coward’s comic rhythms. Another dark cloud appears on the horizon when R.J. Romero, a Yale drama classmate who shares a nasty secret with Merilee, pops up like a jack-in-the-box to blackmail her. But the show must go on despite predictions of torrential rain, high winds, and umbrellas galore for both the audience and the stars, though the weather is far from the worst complication in store. The first act goes off without a hitch, but during the intermission, to the surprise of everyone but fans of the series (The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes, 2017, etc.), the cast loses one of its leading lights to a killer, and as if on cue, skeletons begin tumbling from closets, revealing the past histories of everyone involved to be even more checkered than the sexual adventures of Coward’s principals. Accompanied by Lulu, his faithful basset hound, Hoagy sidles into sleuthing alongside Lt. Carmine Tedone of the Connecticut State Police. Although he acts on several hunches he coyly declines to share with the reader and drags the cast through an interminable restaging of the crime, he gets to share detecting honors with Lulu.

Familiar premise, busy plotting, stock characters. As usual, Hoagy’s narration is the bright spot in a tangle of intrigue wilder than Noel Coward ever could have imagined.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-241285-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more