This sinuous narrative works neatly, both as a gripping novel and a solid meditation on identity.

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WHERE NIGHT STOPS

A young man who survived a tragic accident becomes part of a mysterious international operation where violence and subterfuge abound.

The narrator of this tautly plotted novel doesn’t reveal his name, but he travels through a world in which names, aliases, and hidden identities all have tremendous power. Initially, the structure of the book seems fragmented, but slowly different threads coalesce, revealing a globe-trotting narrative in which betrayals, mysteries, and revelations are interwoven. After the death of his family, the narrator abandons his plans for college and instead opts to be adrift in the world, which eventually leads him to a homeless shelter in Seattle, where he comes into the orbit of a mysterious man named Ray-Ray. From there, he embarks on a career doing a series of nebulous deliveries and drop-offs, which become increasingly global in scope even as the level of danger for these missions increases. That a copy of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock plays a major role in the plot—along with George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon—suggests that Light (Blood Stories, 2015, etc.) is quite aware of his literary forebears. That counts for a lot, as does the way the various plot threads converge organically. The way the novel encompasses both a grittily realistic tale of coming of age in the Midwest and a globe-trotting espionage thriller is occasionally jarring, but the invocation of unexpected real-world events—a reference to 1998’s Operation Desert Fox factors into one character’s history—helps create a narrative equilibrium. And when one character opines that the nominally fast-paced life he lives “used to be thrilling. Now, it’s tedious,” it’s a fine way of finding balance between the two.

This sinuous narrative works neatly, both as a gripping novel and a solid meditation on identity.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945572-66-1

Page Count: 258

Publisher: Vireo/Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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