Pendergast—an always-black-clad pale blond polymath, gaunt yet physically deadly, an FBI agent operating without supervision...

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TWO GRAVES

Preston and Child’s (Cold Vengeance, 2011, etc.) thriller completes the Helen trilogy featuring the weird and unworldly Aloysius Pendergast, special agent for the FBI.

The conclusion opens with Pendergast called to meet Helen, the wife he presumed dead, in New York City’s Central Park. There’s a touching, tentative reunion, and then Der Bund strikes again, kidnapping Helen and leaving Pendergast wounded. Pendergast offers a treatise on detection perfection, tracing Helen from hither and yon to Sonora, Mexico. There’s another shootout. Helen’s killed, and principal bad guy, Wulf Konrad Fischer, escapes. Pendergast retreats to his Dakota apartment in New York City and into a grief-and-guilt-driven drug addiction. Friends intervene. Lt. D’Agosta, city police detective, pleads for Pendergast to help search for a serial killer. Corrie Swanson, criminal justice student, is in danger after stumbling on a Nazi safe house in her quest to help Pendergast. With Pendergast’s aid, Corrie takes refuge with her estranged father, only to find him framed for a bank robbery. Psychiatrist Dr. John Felder discovers the institutionalized Constance Greene may truly be a century and a half old. Pendergast, intrigued by the bizarre serial murders, applies DNA analysis, which leads him to think the murderer is his brother Diogenes, a villain supposedly dead in a Sicilian volcano. Further analysis reveals truths even more grotesque. The most simplistic of the narratives follows Corrie clearing her father; the most gothic follows Felder seeking proof of Greene’s age; and the most violent follows Pendergast as he uncovers secrets about Helen and then takes revenge by breaching a Nazi refuge in Brazil. Pendergast’s narrative offers angst and ample bloodletting in gothic locales and confrontations with the issue of Mengele’s twins experiments mated with quantum mechanics and genetic manipulation. If Preston and Child fans haven’t read the first two volumes in the Helen trilogy, confusion will reign.

Pendergast—an always-black-clad pale blond polymath, gaunt yet physically deadly, an FBI agent operating without supervision or reprimand—lurks at the dark, sharp edge of crime fiction protagonists.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-446-55499-2

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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THE BOY FROM THE WOODS

Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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