Total eclipse of the heart.



Fourth and last in this British author’s experimental Red Riding Quartet crime epic: a raw and furious wade through the Valley of Death that understates its big sweet hell of pages chock-a-block with violated corpses and red rain running with blood.

Peace’s Boschian landscape of West Yorkshire’s all-out dystopia began with Nineteen Seventy Four (2000) and a young girl’s murdered body, found in a ditch with swan’s wings sewn to its shoulder blades. While atmospheric with ’70s music and ads, that first installment set the quartet’s bleak Orwellian tone, though with echoes of the complex modes of Dos Passos’s U.S.A. and the demonic grimness, violence, corruption and conspiracies of James Ellroy. But as Nineteen Seventy Seven (2001) shows, Peace’s obscene vision of cut-up bodies, castration, girls scalped and strangled, is all his own, with memorial images of swan’s wings floating through all four novels. Peace’s Yorkshire Ripper, who disembodies prostitutes with a screwdriver, is taken from real life (as in Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia and as with nearly all of Peace’s crimes), and family members of the dead have to live with Peace’s fear-reminding, gore-riddled pages. Nineteen Eighty (2001) finds the Ripper still abroad but with Yorkshire undergoing vast social change and the police corruption and true-fact crimes adding unusual depth to the series’ black nightmare. Now, Peace brings back a handful of earlier characters to help work up the reader’s revulsion and nausea. Corrupt Detective Chief Superintendent Maurice Jobson, owl-like with thick lenses in black frames, is tracking the kidnapping and probable murder of ten-year-old Hazel Atkins, but his mind still swims with memories of Clare Kemplay, she with the swan’s wings, now murdered a decade ago. Also on hand is lawyer Big John Piggott, who no longer believes that retarded Michael Myshkin, whose forced confession has him serving time for Clare’s murder, actually did it. And on the run is thief and sexual rent boy BJ.

Total eclipse of the heart.

Pub Date: May 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-85242-684-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2003

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


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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