The Valley Girl voice Howell affects for the series (Slay Bells and Satchels, 2011, etc.) is, as she might say, mad old...

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TOTE BAGS AND TOE TAGS

A SoCal hottie can’t stay out of trouble between trips to Starbucks.

Armed with her new degree from the University of Mixology, Haley Randolph is ready to face her latest quest for the über-exclusive Temptress handbag when she makes the mistake of telling her official boyfriend, Ty Cameron, about her achievement. Actually, it’s Haley’s BFF Marcie who brags about the UM degree, and it’s not Haley’s fault that he thinks UM is University of Michigan and that the degree is in business and not in the beverage trade, and it’s not really her fault that she sort of ends up using her “Michigan” degree to get a job with contract agency Dempsey Rowland. What does a contract agency do, anyway? No matter what, Haley’s sure that she’s up to the task until she finds out there are background checks that are likely to uncover her less-than-stellar credentials. In a turn of events both lucky and tragic, chief of security, Violet Hamilton, is killed, which should give Haley time to stay employed just long enough to earn a paycheck…well, and maybe solve her murder, too. Meanwhile, Haley’s high-maintenance mother insists that Haley help find her housekeeper Juanita, who had the gall to disappear instead of planning the menu for the latest dinner party.

The Valley Girl voice Howell affects for the series (Slay Bells and Satchels, 2011, etc.) is, as she might say, mad old school. A reboot of the basic formula seems urgently needed to increase the lolz.

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7582-5332-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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