An engaging mystery that readies a charismatic and savvy protagonist for her own series.

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SIN IN THE BIG EASY

From the Abby Callahan Mysteries series

In McCourt’s debut mystery-thriller, a New Orleans prosecutor’s determination to win a sexual assault case gets her entangled in a conspiracy involving people with powerful local connections.

Assistant district attorney Abby Callahan is out jogging in Audubon Park, near the Loyola University campus, when she finds a bloody, battered woman named Darcy Smith lying near an oak tree. Abby convinces her to go to the hospital and subsequently prosecutes the rapist, Richard “Chip” Hebert Jr. Two months later, Abby’s case is dealt a severe blow when the trial judge is arrested out of the blue. Before she can recuperate from the setback, Abby must fly to Long Island, New York, where her cancer-ridden father recently committed suicide. There, she receives two troubling phone calls from New Orleans—one from Darcy’s friend, Nola, who can’t find Abby’s client anywhere and then later, from a cop who wants Abby to identify a body. Abby returns to the Big Easy, but as soon as she gets there, she discovers that her reporter friend Jill, who’d been staying at her apartment, has been injured; Jill claims that she was attacked by two off-duty cops looking for Darcy. It seems that some very dangerous people want Abby off the case—including Chip’s affluent father. McCourt’s absorbing tale evolves from a deceptively simple courtroom drama to a dizzyingly complex thriller. As McCourt’s tale goes on, Abby learns that both Darcy and Jill have been withholding crucial details from her; meanwhile, Abby juggles two ex-boyfriends, including one who’s served time for a hazily remembered drunken driving accident in her car. The protagonist primarily analyzes evidence that other people have amassed, but the author shows how her quick wits allow her to put the final pieces together. Abby’s uncertainty over whom to trust results in some tense scenes, and the book ends on a sensational cliffhanger.

An engaging mystery that readies a charismatic and savvy protagonist for her own series.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68261-576-8

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Post Hill Press

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2018

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

THE A LIST

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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