Plenty of suspects keep the pot bubbling as Maxwell examines the roots of the abortion controversy that continues to this...

CHARITY'S BURDEN

Murder poses difficult challenges for a compassionate 19th-century Quaker midwife in Massachusetts.

When Rose Carroll is called to the bedside of impoverished Charity Skells, a woman who already has five children and appears to be having a miscarriage, she finds her patient’s bleeding so excessive that she takes her to the hospital. The doctors are unable to staunch the bleeding; Charity dies; and Rose suspects that she may have resorted to an illegal abortion. Before the Comstock Act of 1873, abortions were legal, but ever since it was passed, even birth control has been against the law, placing a heavy burden on women who bear child after child their families can't afford and often sending both mother and baby to an early grave. Rose knows how dangerous illegal abortions can be, especially if they're not done properly. She fears there may have been a motive for Charity’s deliberate murder when she realizes her patient's husband is having a dalliance with a woman he works with at Lowell’s Boat Shop. Charity’s well-to-do parents disliked her husband so much that they refused to help the couple financially and are now devastated and furious at her death. After Rose (Turning the Tide, 2018, etc.) shares her suspicions with police detective Kevin Donovan, a well-placed friend, he manages to arrange an autopsy that proves Charity died from a perforated uterus. Rose misses the sage advice of her fiance, David, a physician who is out of town. And she’s sad because her 18-year-old niece is about to wed while she and David still await his mother’s approval. Rose’s search for possible abortion providers earns her threats and puts her in physical danger. Because her actions are motivated by her faith, she won’t let threats keep her from doing the right thing as she seeks the truth.

Plenty of suspects keep the pot bubbling as Maxwell examines the roots of the abortion controversy that continues to this day.

Pub Date: April 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7387-5643-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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