A run-of-the-mill but entertaining whodunit.


Dead Girl in a Charleston Marsh

In Brown’s (A Devil in the Drone, 2013, etc.) straightforward detective story, a private investigator must solve a former CIA agent’s murder in Charleston, South Carolina.

Harriet Bennett is an ex-assistant director at the CIA who recently quit her job to move South with her partner and teach at The Citadel, a military college. When she’s found dead in a Charleston marsh, it appears to be an open-and-shut kayaking accident, but the agency sends gumshoe John “Stick” LeMaster to investigate nonetheless. Signs soon point to Harriet being murdered, and her ties to communism, the Venezuelan Catholic Church and a failed coup against Hugo Chavez become more than just highlights of her former career. Her roommate, the sexually flexible Prissy St. Martin Snipes, along with Prissy’s father, Gumpy, and stepmother Leonore, aid Stick in his search for the killer. Like many other fictional private eyes, Stick’s a smooth-talking loner who’s fond of fine liquor, and he often finds himself the target of women’s flirtations. However, he isn’t a particularly brilliant detective, or even a particularly compelling lead character; more than once, he misses seemingly obvious opportunities to advance the case. Stick’s background as a former officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, who saw action in Iraq, might have made him truly unique, but despite the story’s Citadel setting, it’s a minor detail. However, his musings on Charleston life, from “She Crab soup” to the so-called Charleston uniform of blue blazer, tan slacks, blue button-down shirt and cordovan penny loafers, paint a warm picture of Southern living. They also give the story an amusing fish-out-of-water angle, aided by the appearance of Gumpy, a comical, if a bit stereotypical, born-and-bred South Carolina lawyer. This simple mystery may not stick with readers for long after they’ve finished, but it’s a fun, easy way to pass the time at the beach.

A run-of-the-mill but entertaining whodunit.

Pub Date: March 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-1494262860

Page Count: 200

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2014

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.


FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...


A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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