Enjoyably complicated plots with some well-depicted characters.



A complex mystery with multiple plots and a host of intriguing characters.

When Fa-ling was a child in Guangxi, China, her birth mother–fearful that her ruthless mother-in-law would kill Fa-ling and her newborn sister–abandoned the girls on a park bench before committing suicide. Fa-ling and her sister Daphne lived at a wretched orphanage where Fa-ling tolerated sexual abuse in an unspoken trade for extra food for her and Daphne. Readers later discover that their father’s heart was broken by their disappearance, and though he was too weak to stand up to his insufferable mother, he continued to search for them unbeknownst to Fa-ling and Daphne. Forward to the present, when 21-year-old Fa-ling is living with her loving adoptive family in Canada, but feeling lost, tentative and confused about her future. Determined to resolve her feelings by revisiting her past, she returns to China. For safety reasons, she doesn’t go alone, but travels with a tour guide and a group of five couples who ironically are going to China to adopt a child. Soon after their arrival, a gruesome murder occurs at their hotel and Fa-ling unknowingly stumbles into a three-way plot involving child kidnapping, organ theft, political intrigue and government coverups. Enter detectives Wang and Cheng, two wonderfully rendered characters who must toe the tenuous line between uncovering the truth and risking reprisal from governmental higher-ups. The other compelling storylines quickly unfold, and Carrick deftly and seamlessly weaves these plots together. As with many other mysteries, there’s a lengthy list of characters and some readers may feel confused by the array. Though there are some lovely descriptions, there are also some jarring metaphors and similes which disrupt the narrative flow–“Her voice, never soothing at the best of times, ripped through the humid afternoon with the intensity of a chicken being plucked” and “The water shimmered, whispering like a friend in a new dress.” Still, the conclusion is pleasantly unpredictable.

Enjoyably complicated plots with some well-depicted characters.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4392-5393-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.


Happy birthday, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. But no Florida vacation for you and your husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley—not because President Barack Obama is visiting Cambridge, but because a deranged sniper has come to town.

Shortly after everyone’s favorite forensic pathologist (Dust, 2013, etc.) receives a sinister email from a correspondent dubbed Copperhead, she goes outside to find seven pennies—all polished, all turned heads-up, all dated 1981—on her garden wall. Clearly there’s trouble afoot, though she’s not sure what form it will take until five minutes later, when a call from her old friend and former employee Pete Marino, now a detective with the Cambridge Police, summons her to the scene of a shooting. Jamal Nari was a high school music teacher who became a minor celebrity when his name was mistakenly placed on a terrorist watch list; he claimed government persecution, and he ended up having a beer with the president. Now he’s in the news for quite a different reason. Bizarrely, the first tweets announcing his death seem to have preceded it by 45 minutes. And Leo Gantz, a student at Nari’s school, has confessed to his murder, even though he couldn’t possibly have done it. But these complications are only the prelude to a banquet of homicide past and present, as Scarpetta and Marino realize when they link Nari’s murder to a series of killings in New Jersey. For a while, the peripheral presence of the president makes you wonder if this will be the case that finally takes the primary focus off the investigator’s private life. But most of the characters are members of Scarpetta’s entourage, the main conflicts involve infighting among the regulars, and the killer turns out to be a familiar nemesis Scarpetta thought she’d left for dead several installments back. As if.

No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232534-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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