BODY OF TRUTH

It's back to homicide-cop Stuart Haydon for Lindsey, who, last time out, dropped his usual Houston-based hero (In the Lake of the Moon, 1988, etc.) for a policewoman on a spellbinding serial-killer case (Mercy, 1990). And a welcome return it is, with Haydon flying to Guatemala on a missing-person quest that evolves into a strong, suspenseful meditation on the elusive nature of truth. The opening scene sets the theme, with Haydon trying to elicit a statement from a woman caught in ``a closely held sorrow, a concealed anguish.'' She's the mother of a missing young woman, Lena Muller, presumed dead; but now, she finally tells Haydon, a p.i. has called from Guatemala to say that Lena is alive—but in trouble. How much trouble, Haydon learns when he flies to that frightful land, powerfully depicted here as a realm of pestilence and poverty, ruled by fear—of the government's torture chambers, of death squads: Upon his arrival, the only sign Haydon finds of the p.i. is a room splashed with blood. And as he searches for Lena—who becomes his grail, his ``body of truth''—Haydon realizes that Guatemala is also a realm of feints and shadows, where everyone lies: the CIA chief whose parallel hunt for Lena masks cynical political motives; the ex-spy whose love for Lena is tainted by greed; the guerrilla leader whose populism conceals a brutal ruthlessness. As Haydon digs further and uncovers a baby- selling ring masterminded by the nation's president—a secret that has pushed Lena into guerrilla hands and made her a death-squad target—he becomes a government target himself, first via a botched car-bombing and then by way of an old ally who, terrifyingly, lures him into a cemetery to execute him...but the cop survives to find Lena at last—and a truth harsher than he imagined. A tad slow in patches, but beautifully written and echoing with deep moral resonance: Graham Greene would be proud.

Pub Date: May 18, 1992

ISBN: 0-385-24814-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1992

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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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