This whodunit’s slow-paced but never tedious plot will keep readers guessing until Foley closes the case.

Murder in the Fifth

A man’s death after a night of partying could be a homicide, and police aren’t short on suspects in Sharrow’s (Virtual Humans, 2014, etc.) mystery.

Faith Hanson is shocked to discover her fiance, Bill Beldon—“Big Willie” to friends—dead the morning after their engagement party. He may be a victim of alcohol poisoning: Bill loved drinking in his “fifth year,” the one just after college before settling into family life. But Hermosa Beach, California, police detective Foley could actually have a murder on his hands. It seems that there were plenty of people who might have wanted Bill dead, from art historian Aaron Watts, who’s obsessed with the unavailable Faith, to the ardent but rejected Big Willie fan Connie Smyth. When Detective Foley interrogates Bill’s friends and associates, he soon realizes that one of them could be a killer. After a quick introduction to the possible killing, the story flashes back six months to reveal the events leading up to Bill’s death. Sharrow takes things at a leisurely pace, following Bill and his pal Nate Green to Mexico, for example, to tour tequila distilleries and Faith to a mani-pedi and a discussion of Bill’s potential infidelity with her best friend, Orphelia Moore. These scenes may appear mundane, but they pay off: at least one of them results in people contemplating nasty things. Likewise, the unhurried narrative effectively manages its myriad characters, and despite some red herrings, there are ample suspects by the time the story returns to the present. There’s not much to Bill beyond the physical, and Sharrow oversells descriptions of the musclebound victim-to-be (who shares his nickname with an impressively sized part of his anatomy). But there’s enough sympathy to go around; Faith, for example, is constantly worried that Bill’s cheating on her, and Connie seems desperate for attention. Others are shrouded in perpetual mystery, such as Nate’s new girlfriend, Lauren Blood, who’s already connected to a couple of bizarre murders.

This whodunit’s slow-paced but never tedious plot will keep readers guessing until Foley closes the case.

Pub Date: June 19, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5143-4953-3

Page Count: 228

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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