Although Ray’s wild adventures seem to get less stressful as they go along, McBain already has voice and tone well in hand...

SO NUDE, SO DEAD

This pulpy 1952 first novel by the future creator of the 87th Precinct (Fiddlers, 2005, etc.) traces three nightmare days in the life of an addict on the run.

Fallen piano player Ray Stone, who’ll do anything for a fix, hooks up with Eileen Chalmers, who offers him a night of sex and heroin and shows him 16 more ounces of uncut product. When he wakes up after the debauchery, Eileen is dead in his bed, shot twice in the belly, and the drugs are gone. Ray’s attempts to promote his next fix from his father and his former girlfriend, Jeannie, both of whom know all about his habit, are of limited success, and his regular dealer naturally refuses to extend credit. So Ray decides to go looking not for more heroin but for Eileen’s killer. From this foundational implausibility flow many others. Everyone Ray talks to, from Eileen’s husband, bandleader Dale Kramer, to his new sweetie, exotic dancer Rusty O’Donnell, to Scat Lewis, frontman of the combo she sang with, to Barbara Cole, the singer who switched gigs with Eileen, is improbably forthcoming—Babs even takes him to bed—and when the inevitable heavies looking for that pound of H grab Ray, intent on making him talk, he gets away from them and keeps asking questions. Ray’s picture is on the front page of every newspaper in New York, but no one recognizes him, and the police remain a step or two behind right up to the denouement.

Although Ray’s wild adventures seem to get less stressful as they go along, McBain already has voice and tone well in hand in this treasurable blast from the past, which looks forward in fascinating ways to the first part of Candyland (2001). Disgraced private eye Matt Cordell headlines a bonus story focusing on another hopeless addict.

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78116-606-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Hard Case Crime

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 19

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more