This novel scores big not because of its mystery but due to its pregnant protagonist and her inexorable fortitude.

FALSE PROPHET

In Banta’s (The Girls from Fourth Ward, 2012) second murder mystery to feature detective Matt Ryan, the murder of a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may lead to a killer within the church.

When Brother Dooley is found beaten to death in Abbottsville, Calif., people immediately suspect Bishop Paul Zimmerman; after all, he was at the scene holding the murder weapon. But Lt. Ryan, who’d previously worked a murder case involving members of the same congregation, has his doubts, as does the bishop’s pregnant wife, Carrie. Both Ryan and Carrie look into the murder, which might have ties to the church’s support of Proposition 8, which sought to outlaw gay marriage in California. Banta’s novel, which sometimes alludes to her previous work, is presented from two perspectives: Ryan’s first-person narration and Carrie’s third-person. The dual viewpoints tend to emphasize, with tongue firmly in cheek, the differences between churchgoers and non: Carrie’s “Oh my heck” and her sex suggestion from a magazine found at a hair salon versus Ryan’s decidedly colorful language and his meeting informants at their porn shop. The book is often blatantly critical of Mormonism, from its opposition to same-sex marriage to Carrie having to quit her job and become a mother full time after Paul is appointed bishop. Carrie’s recurring thought, “I love being a Mormon,” can come across as a bit derisive and cynical, even if she’s unaware of its effect. The investigation side of the mystery is occasionally skimmed, and it’s not always clear how Ryan or Carrie reach their deductions, especially since they investigate separately but manage to zero in on the same suspect. Carrie’s amateur sleuthing, however, results in the novel’s best sequence: A pregnant prowler, in her third trimester and clad all in black, she doesn’t creep into a crime scene—she waddles. This type of lighthearted but rewarding humor is retained even when Carrie is working with Ryan: During an unofficial undercover gig, he mistakes the expectant mother’s desperate need for a bathroom break as trepidation.

This novel scores big not because of its mystery but due to its pregnant protagonist and her inexorable fortitude.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-1492732211

Page Count: 230

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2014

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Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

22 SECONDS

Lindsay Boxer faces a ton of trouble in the latest entry in Patterson and Paetro’s Women’s Murder Club series.

Senior crime reporter Cindy Thomas is writing a biography of Evan Burke, a notorious serial killer who sits in solitary confinement in San Quentin. She’s kidnapped by thugs wanting her to talk about her best friend, Lindsay Boxer, who’s an SFPD homicide detective and the story’s main character. San Francisco has a restrictive new gun law, and gun-totin’ folks everywhere have their boxer shorts in a twist. A national resistance movement has formed—Defenders of the Second—whose motto is “We will not comply.” They find it outrageous that the new law makes it illegal to own a gun that can kill 50 people with a single clip. Meanwhile, lots of bodies show up: A young girl disappears and is later found dead in a ditch, and ex-cops are found dead with their lips stapled shut and “You talk, you die” written on their foreheads. An inmate is found hanged in prison. And “a massive but unspecified load of military-style weaponry was en route from Mexico to the City by the Bay.” In a “frustrating, multipronged case,” there’s a harrowing shootout memorialized in a video showing “twenty-two of the scariest seconds” of Boxer’s life. She’s an appealing series hero with loving family and friends, but she may arrive at a crossroads where she has “to choose between my work and [my] baby girl.” The formulaic story has unmemorable writing, but it’s entertaining and well told. You probably won’t have to worry about the main characters, who have thus far survived 21 adventures. Except for the little girl, you can expect people to get what they deserve. It's relatively mild as crime novels go, but the women characters are serious, strong, and admirable.

Enjoyable storytelling by two masters of the craft.

Pub Date: May 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-49937-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Generations may succeed generations, but Sandford’s patented investigation/action formula hasn’t aged a whit. Bring it on.

THE INVESTIGATOR

A domestic-terrorist plot gives the adopted daughter of storied U.S. Marshal Lucas Davenport her moment to shine.

Veteran oilman Vermilion Wright knows that losing a few thousand gallons of crude is no more than an accounting error to his company but could mean serious money to whomever’s found a way to siphon it off from wells in Texas’ Permian Basin. So he asks Sen. Christopher Colles, Chair of Homeland Security and Government Affairs, to look into it, and Colles persuades 24-year-old Letty Davenport, who’s just quit his employ, to return and partner with Department of Homeland Security agent John Kaiser to track down the thieves. The plot that right-winger Jane Jael Hawkes and her confederates, most of them service veterans with disgruntled attitudes and excellent military skills, have hatched is more dire than anything Wright could have imagined. They plan to use the proceeds from the oil thefts to purchase some black-market C4 essential to a major act of terrorism that will simultaneously express their alarm about the country’s hospitality to illegal immigrants and put the Jael-Birds on the map for good. But they haven’t reckoned with Letty, another kid born on the wrong side of the tracks who can outshoot the men she’s paired with and outthink the vigilantes she finds herself facing—and who, along with her adoptive father, makes a memorable pair of “pragmatists. Really harsh pragmatists” willing to do whatever needs doing without batting an eye or losing a night’s sleep afterward.

Generations may succeed generations, but Sandford’s patented investigation/action formula hasn’t aged a whit. Bring it on.

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32868-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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