A CONSPIRACY OF PAPER

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 20, 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.

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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As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution...

ROSES ARE RED

Who’s robbing all those banks and kidnapping all those people and killing all those accomplices? It’s somebody calling himself the Mastermind—a comic-book sobriquet that represents everything that’s wrong with the latest installment in Patterson’s Alex Cross franchise.

A young woman robs a bank in suburban Maryland and threatens to kill the manager’s family if she’s kept from meeting her timetable. She’s less than a minute late out the door, so the family dies. So does the robber. So do all the staff at a second bank after somebody tips the police off. Who could possibly be so ruthless? It’s the Mastermind, the evil genius who set up both robberies intending murder from the beginning—even warning the cops the second time. And robbing banks is only the beginning for the megalomaniac, who’s plotting a group abduction worth $30 million and a series of maneuvers that’ll feed his cat’s-paws to the police, or to the fishes. And since the Mastermind likes to see families suffer, he vows to take the war of nerves right to forensic psychologist Cross. But if he wants to ruin the D.C. detective’s life, he’ll have to stand in line, since Cross’s girlfriend Christine Johnson is pulling away from him and his daughter Jannie is suddenly having seizures. Despite his prowess with guns and fists, and his awesome insight into other people’s minds, Cross would be desperate if it weren’t for the timely embraces of FBI agent Betsey Cavalierre, to whom he’ll make passionate love while telling her, “I like being with you. A lot. Even more than I expected.” With an adversary like that, how can the Mastermind prevail?

As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution unclouded by texture, thought, or moral complexity, to produce the speediest tosh on the planet.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2000

ISBN: 0-316-69325-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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