The setup is a lot stronger than the follow-up, which requires reams of backstory, an elaborate restaging of the original...

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TOUCAN KEEP A SECRET

A murder in the crypt—no, make that the columbarium—of Caerphilly, Virginia's Trinity Episcopal kicks off Meg Langslow’s 23rd case.

Naturally, Meg discovers the body, and naturally, she’s not supposed to be there. But after she sees signs of an intruder while she’s working late at the church as pregnant Rev. Robyn Smith frets through the bed rest she’s been ordered, Meg investigates further during her phone call to the Caerphilly police and discovers the body of Junius Hagley, one of the Mumbling Misogynsts who’ve done everything they can to undermine their female rector. Just as distressing as Hagley’s murder by crowbar is the sight of six desecrated memorial niches, some of whose urns have been knocked over and spilled out what are now irretrievably commingled ashes. The urns contain the mortal remains of Hagley’s wife, Dolores, wealthy Beatrice Helen Falkenhausen van der Lynden, her handyman, J.A. Washington, former frat boy P. Jefferson Blair, Lacey Shiffley of Caerphilly’s endless Shiffley family, and a John Doe who’s never been identified. Why would Hagley or anyone else have taken the trouble to pry them open in the dead of night? A bejeweled ring found at the scene suggests that it might be the site of a treasure hunt, but Meg’s more interested in what the six post-mortem victims have in common: All of them, even the John Doe, are linked to a burglary 30 years ago at the van der Lynden mansion, now rechristened as Ragnarsheim, the home of semiretired heavy metal drummer Ragnar Ragnarsen. So she works to figure out exactly what went down during that ancient robbery and how it’s connected to the latest outrage in the town’s extensive criminal annals (How the Finch Stole Christmas!, 2017, etc.).

The setup is a lot stronger than the follow-up, which requires reams of backstory, an elaborate restaging of the original robbery, a culprit plucked from nowhere, and a lot fewer laughs than fans of this generally riotous franchise have a right to expect.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-11547-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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