The odd amalgam of porn, gossip and family values overlaid with forced humor is much less fun than Mama Sees Stars (2011).

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MAMA GETS TRASHED

The Bauer gals bicker their way through marital woes, engagement snafus and sexual innuendos.

Reluctantly accompanying her mama to the Himmarshee dump to retrieve the wedding ring she accidentally threw away, Mace Bauer discovers a diamond bracelet among the pork rinds, crab shells and empty dog food cans. The bauble, sad to say, adorns the arm of a very dead young woman bedecked in fetish garb. Mace’s fiance, Carlos the hunky homicide detective, gets the case, which is less interesting to Mama than the plight of her eldest daughter, Maddie, who insists on wearing an unbecoming yellow ensemble to her husband Kenny’s birthday do. Maddie, however, has a more serious problem: Could Kenny, newly obsessed with golf, be having an affair, and what ought she to do about her suspicions? She confides her woes to Mace, who, heading for the golf course to snoop, encounters a dishy if lascivious golf pro and a rapacious lesbian bartender, both of whom know secrets about the pseudo-folksy mayor and his cocktail-swilling wife. The trashed victim turns out to be the starchy librarian, whose twin sister arrives to settle her estate. Mace soon discovers that Kenny loaned his hunting cabin to certain golf club members who used it for swinging sex parties. The place is awash in champagne bottles, cigarette butts and a red thong, making Kenny suspect No. 1 in the librarian’s murder. But Mace and Mama, after escaping car tails, threats left nailed to their house door and hostile neighbors, prove Kenny innocent, while a plot twist readers will see coming from the first mention of twins ends the sleazy tale.

The odd amalgam of porn, gossip and family values overlaid with forced humor is much less fun than Mama Sees Stars (2011).

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7387-3615-0

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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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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