To call Mark’s novels (Taking Pity, 2015, etc.) police procedurals is like calling the Mona Lisa a pretty painting....

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CRUEL MERCY

A British policeman blunders into gang warfare and worse in New York City.

DS Aector McAvoy of the Humberside Police knows what’s important to him: his wife, Roisin; their children; his boss, Trish Pharaoh; and his job. When Irish boxer Shay Helden is murdered and his coach, Brishen Ayres, badly wounded and left in a coma while on a trip to New York, the Traveler families of both men suspect rival Traveler and fellow boxer Valentine Teague, who is Roisin’s brother. Pharaoh pulls strings to get Aector sent to New York to try to prove Valentine innocent before the long-simmering differences between the Traveler families become open warfare. His NYPD liaison, Ronald Alto, has been told only that Aector has knowledge that might help with the case, but Aector opens up to him, which puts Valentine on the suspect list in New York. Since the visitors had been in New York only two days and spent most of their time at the gym in hopes of arranging a boxing match for Shay with a major promoter, the police are having trouble establishing another motive. The pair also visited Saint Colman’s church, the former parish of Father Jimmy Whelan, a popular priest now in Ireland who helped Valentine get a last-minute passport to follow Shay and Brishen. Aector’s questions attract the interest of the Italian and Russian mafias, who both have an interest in boxing, legal and otherwise. Helping the NYPD catch a sexual predator helps establish Aector with the locals, but much is still being hidden from him. Occasional chapters throughout the book reveal the thoughts of both a stone-cold Mafia hit man and a psychopathic killer whose horrific crimes may be related to both the Mafia and the church. Though he’s never imagined chatting face to face with Mafia bosses, that may be the only way he can untangle a series of murders past and present and save Valentine.

To call Mark’s novels (Taking Pity, 2015, etc.) police procedurals is like calling the Mona Lisa a pretty painting. Beautifully crafted, filled with flashbacks, horror, angst, and chilling detail, this one is his most complex and best yet.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-18511-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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