More purely manic than the heroine’s first two adventures, which at least held out the hope of resolution.

Fasten your seat belts. Suspense novelist Finlay Donovan, who wants all the world to know she’s not a killer for hire, is headed for a third round of murder most madcap.

Finn is already under a certain amount of pressure. Feliks Zhirov, the Russian mobster arrested because of what she told the police, demands that she identify EasyClean, the online contract killer he’s been mistaken for, before Zhirov’s trial begins in two weeks. And he isn’t kidding, Finn realizes when she sees evidence that one of Zhirov’s people is stalking her nanny, Veronica Ruiz, and her two kids. Vero has problems of her own, since she’s borrowed $200,000 from Marco, a loan shark with teeth, to pay off her other creditors, and the only way she has to raise that kind of money is to liquidate a slightly bullet-ridden Aston Martin she and Finn acquired less than legally in Finlay Donovan Knocks ’Em Dead (2022). How could things possibly get worse? For starters, Finn and Vero could respond to the pressure Marco’s enforcer Ike Grindley puts on them by, um, dumping a pile of cars on top of him, eliminating the threat from him personally but accelerating it from every other direction. The rumor that EasyClean is a member of the Fairfax County Police Department leads Finn and Vero to accept an invitation to the citizens’ police academy, where they hope to get a closer look at the most likely suspects in the case while exposing themselves to the gaze of the academy’s coordinator, Finn’s maybe-sweetie Det. Nicholas Anthony. Chaos ensues, and the cliffhanger ending eliminates any point to peeking at the last few pages for enlightenment.

More purely manic than the heroine’s first two adventures, which at least held out the hope of resolution.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-2508-4603-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022


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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.

In this mystery, the narrator constantly adds commentary on how the story is constructed.

In 1929, during the golden age of mysteries, a (real-life) writer named Ronald Knox published the “10 Commandments of Detective Fiction,” 10 rules that mystery writers should obey in order to “play fair.” When faced with his own mystery story, our narrator, an author named Ernest Cunningham who "write[s] books about how to write books," feels like he must follow these rules himself. The story seemingly begins on the night his brother Michael calls to ask him to help bury a body—and shows up with the body and a bag containing $267,000. Fast-forward three years, and Ernie’s family has gathered at a ski resort to celebrate Michael’s release from prison. The family dynamics are, to put it lightly, complicated—and that’s before a man shows up dead in the snow and Michael arrives with a coffin in a truck. When the local cop arrests Michael for the murder, things get even more complicated: There are more deaths; Michael tells a story about a coverup involving their father, who was part of a gang called the Sabers; and Ernie still has (most of) the money and isn’t sure whom to trust or what to do with it. Eventually, Ernie puts all the pieces together and gathers the (remaining) family members and various extras for the great denouement. As the plot develops, it becomes clear that there’s a pretty interesting mystery at the heart of this novel, but Stevenson’s postmodern style has Ernie constantly breaking the fourth wall to explain how the structure of his story meets the criteria for a successful detective story. Some readers are drawn to mysteries because they love the formula and logic—this one’s for them. If you like the slow, sometimes-creepy, sometimes-comforting unspooling of a good mystery, it might not be your cup of tea—though the ending, to be fair, is still something of a surprise.

This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-327902-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Mariner Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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