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A well-researched and highly entertaining historical mystery debut that compares favorably with An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears’s recent runaway success. Liss’s fiendishly intricate tale of financial skullduggery and multiple murder, set in a solidly realized early 18th-century London, has as its redoubtable protagonist and narrator one Benjamin Weaver—a Jew of Portugese derivation who has forsaken his notoriety as a celebrated prizefighter (“The Lion of Judah”) and criminal to become an independent “protector, guardian, bailiff, constable-for-hire, and thief-taker.” When a haughty client engages Weaver to find his father’s murderer, but is seen to have withheld vital information, Ben finds himself rapidly involved in a multitude of confusingly related intrigues triggered by his search for a nobleman’s missing wallet; a reunion with the family of Ben’s uncle Miguel, a wealthy importer, which raises Ben’s suspicions about his own father’s “accidental” death; furtive meetings and narrow escapes aplenty. Liss’s clever plot expands to embrace the underworld ruled by legendary criminal impresario Jonathan Wild and the machinations of “stock-jobbing” as they relate to the (since infamous) South Sea investment company (suspected of masterminding a scheme whereby “money in England is being replaced with the promise of money”) and the complex secret life led by Ben’s widowed cousin, the beautiful—and perhaps dangerous—Miriam Lienzo. Liss convincingly portrays his estimable hero as fearless man of action, resentful ethnic alien in a society that openly despises Jews, and even self-made cultivator of “the social graces.” And Weaver’s several investigations are conveyed in vivid extended scenes characterized by crisp dialogue and a keen sense of the ways in which character reveals itself through both open confrontation and subtle implication. The very model of a modern historical mystery. Weaver’s closing remarks inform us that “my many exploits are too varied to recount in this volume.— Liss’s readers will hope that implied promise is soon kept. (First printing of 150,000)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-50292-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1999

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

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 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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