Not much in the way of felonies, and most of the other 15 monks are ciphers. But Westlake’s sweetly consecrated hero, at...

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BROTHERS KEEPERS

A tiny band of monks facing the loss of their monastery in midtown Manhattan fight back in this slight, humorous 1975 charmer.

You wouldn’t expect to find the Crispinite Order of the Novum Mundum lodged on Park Avenue between 51st and 52nd streets, and come New Year’s Day, you probably won’t. While they were meditating on otherworldly matters, their 99-year-lease, last renewed in 1876, was optioned from Daniel Flattery, the current owner of their land, by developer Roger Dwarfmann, who plans to raze historic structures all along the block to make way for a 67-story office building. The 16 sort-of-cloistered monks can’t even find their copy of the lease, and they haven’t a clue how to stop the wrecking ball from exiling them to the likes of New Paltz. The most important upshot of a delegation’s visit to Dan Flattery is that Brother Benedict, the winsome narrator who’s been a member of CONM for 10 years, falls head over heels in love with Eileen Flattery Bone, their leaseholder’s daughter. Anyone familiar with Westlake’s peerless crime comedies (Help I Am Being Held Prisoner, 1974, etc.) will be confident that the unlikely romance between Brother Benedict, ne Charles Rowbottom, and the divorcée who predictably describes herself as “the sincerest of Flatterys” will end in laughter, and the high point of the tale is this modern Candide’s trip to Puerto Rico to plead both his order’s case and his own to a young woman with nothing but sun and surf on her mind.

Not much in the way of felonies, and most of the other 15 monks are ciphers. But Westlake’s sweetly consecrated hero, at once disconcertingly direct and utterly clueless, will bring you to your feet cheering for his impossible cause.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78565-715-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Titan Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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