A remarkable thriller about a serial killer’s repulsive yearning for fame.



In Laden’s debut novel, a TV reporter, temporarily filling in as lead anchor, may be getting a scoop on a red-hot serial killer story straight from the murderer himself.

Like most reporters, Arland Hunter of WFLA Channel 9 in Miami is waiting for the story that’ll give him his big break. Then a local sanitation worker discovers an unidentified woman’s body behind a dumpster. The chief medical examiner finds that the murderer taped a note to the victim’s hand, numbered “1” and quoting the infamous serial killer Aileen Wuornos. Unsurprisingly, a second murder follows, with a similar, numbered note quoting a different killer. Around the same time, Channel 9’s lead anchor, Carlos Cardona, endures an unrelated tragedy. As Carlos’ substitute, it’s Arland’s chance to shine, and he quickly makes waves by implying on-air, without proof, that authorities are covering up details of the murders, which causes a spike in network ratings. It seems that Arland is angling for a permanent position, but Carlos sees more than a threat to his career: He believes that the reason that Arland is privy to so many facts is because he has a direct line to the killer. Laden fills his novel with convincing melodrama; for instance, he shows that Carlos feels guilt over a one-night stand with co-anchor Chevelle Lourdes Torres, and his wife, Mirla, has plenty of secrets of her own. This adds dimension to the novel but doesn’t soften the impact of scenes from the unnamed killer’s perspective—harrowing and sometimes uncomfortable accounts of murders, as well as extended sequences of physical and psychological torture. The descriptions throughout are often unadorned but comprehensive; this style is most effective when the killer stalks potential victims, learning routines and meticulously inching closer to the inevitable assault. Although the story highlights the media’s faults, Carlos, who favors unbiased news over sensationalism, provides an admirable counterbalance.

A remarkable thriller about a serial killer’s repulsive yearning for fame.

Pub Date: June 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4836-4110-2

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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