An engaging, well-researched, and sometimes thought-provoking art mystery.

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BIG LIES IN A SMALL TOWN

A tale of two artists, living 78 years apart in a small Southern town, and the third artist who links them.

The fates of two white painters in Edenton, North Carolina, intertwine with the legacy of a third, that of Jesse Jameson Williams, a prominent African American artist with Edenton roots. In 2018, the recently deceased Jesse has left a very unusual will. In life, Jesse paid his success forward by helping underdog artists. Morgan Christopher, the last, posthumous recipient of Jesse’s largesse, can’t imagine why he chose her, a complete stranger who is doing time for an alcohol-related crash that left another driver paralyzed. Released on an early parole engineered by Jesse’s daughter, Lisa, Morgan will receive $50,000 to restore a mural painted by one Anna Dale in 1940 in time for a gallery opening on Aug. 5, 2018. If Morgan misses this deadline, not only is her deal off, but Lisa will, due to a puzzling, thinly motivated condition of Jesse’s will, lose her childhood home. In an alternating narrative, Anna, winner of a U.S. Treasury Department competition, has been sent from her native New Jersey to paint a mural for the Edenton post office. Anna has zero familiarity with the South, particularly with Jim Crow. She recognizes Jesse’s exceptional talent and mentors him, to the ire of Edenton’s white establishment. Martin Drapple, a local portraitist rejected in the competition, is at first a good sport, when he’s sober, until, somewhat too suddenly, he’s neither. Issues of addiction and mental illness are foremost in both past and present. Anna’s late mother had manic episodes. Morgan’s estranged parents are unrepentant boozers. And Anna’s mural of civic pride is decidedly strange. One of the strengths here is the creditable depiction of the painter’s process, in Anna’s case, and the restorer’s art, in Morgan’s. Despite the fraught circumstances challenging all three painters, conflict is lacking. The 1940 racial tensions are unrealistically mild, and Jesse’s testamentary testiness is not mined for its full stakes-raising potential.

An engaging, well-researched, and sometimes thought-provoking art mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-08733-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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All the emotional intensity Slaughter’s readers expect, now focused on a diabolical domestic terrorist. Don’t say you...

THE LAST WIDOW

Pediatrician/medical examiner Sara Linton’s path to marrying Will Trent, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, runs into apocalyptic obstacles only Slaughter could devise.

To begin with, Sara’s mother objects so strenuously to Will that she won’t even utter his name. But her opposition can’t compete with the carnage that erupts when Sara and Will (The Kept Woman, 2016, etc.), hearing the sounds of a bomb near Emory University, rush to the scene and encounter along the way the aftermath of a three-car collision. Stopping to help, they soon smell something amiss, but not soon enough to prevent them from being overpowered and separated by the supposed victims. Will is beaten to the ground; Sara is whisked off in a car whose occupants include Michelle Spivey, a scientist with the Centers for Disease Control who was abducted from under her young daughter’s nose a month ago. Arriving at the mountain encampment of the Invisible Patriot Army, a paramilitary cadre determined to make America white again, Sara is first forced to treat the wounds of the men who kidnapped her and then asked by IPA leader Dash to remain so that she can treat an outbreak of measles that’s swept through the children in the camp, including Dash’s daughter, whose mother is Gwen Novak, the daughter of Martin Novak, whose history of anti-government bank robberies has made him a high-value federal prisoner. As Will schemes to infiltrate the camp disguised as a new recruit, Sara is dismayed to find that no matter what she does, the children she’s tending keep getting sicker and sicker. Even the most ardent fans of Slaughter’s white-hot thrillers (Pieces of Her, 2018, etc.) will be shocked and horror-stricken by the outrage Dash has planned.

All the emotional intensity Slaughter’s readers expect, now focused on a diabolical domestic terrorist. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-285808-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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