As a bonus, fans can savor “Now Die in It,” a moody, overwrought 35-page case for disgraced detective Matt Cordell, who also...

CUT ME IN

Another vintage case from the days in the early 1950s before McBain created the 87th Precinct and broke away from the pack.

You might think it’s not literary agent Josh Blake’s day. Soon after he arrives at the offices of Gilbert and Blake, he finds his partner, Del Gilbert, shot to death, the safe in his private office rifled. The most worrisome item that’s missing is the contract novelist Cam Stewart signed granting Gilbert and Blake radio and television rights to Stewart’s bestselling Westerns in perpetuity for $500—a document Del had planned to use to extort a major piece of the action from the impending sale of Stewart’s work to Hollywood producer Dave Becker out of Carlyle Rutherford, the agent handling the sale. Even worse, the firm’s only photostatic copy of the contract is stolen from Josh himself as he’s leaving the apartment of Lydia Rafney, Del’s secretary and lover. And Detective Sgt. Sam Di Luca, who’s working the case, makes no secret of his suspicion that Josh is the killer. On the other hand, the day isn’t a complete loss. Josh wakes up in the company of Janice, a half-clad blonde he doesn’t remember from the night before, and two other comely ladies proposition him before the sun goes down. (There’ll be a third forward pass the next day from a most unexpected quarter.) The complications are juicy, the combination of menace and sexual availability irresistible, and McBain’s gift for inventing a full range of wacky episodes already in full flower. Only the solution itself disappoints.

As a bonus, fans can savor “Now Die in It,” a moody, overwrought 35-page case for disgraced detective Matt Cordell, who also headlined the story appended to So Nude, So Dead (2015). If this sounds like your cup of bourbon, it most definitely is.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-78329-445-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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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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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

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THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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