by Ellery Queen ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 2, 2018
It’s easy to see why Queen’s exercise in deduction has dated badly: Everything about it is creaky and artificial, from the...
Imperishable anthologist Otto Penzler kicks off his newest publishing venture, a reprint series of American Mystery Classics, with this 1934 brainteaser involving perhaps the strangest crime scene in all fiction.
When millionaire publisher/philatelist/gem collector Donald Kirk and his acquaintance Ellery Queen (The Adventure of the Murdered Moths, 2005, etc.) stop just before dinner at Kirk’s office, on the 22nd floor of New York’s Hotel Chancellor, they step inside to find everything in the waiting room—framed pictures, bookcases, furniture, rugs—turned backward and an unknown caller who’d told Kirk’s secretary, James Osborne, that he was here to see Mr. Kirk on a matter of great importance beaten to death and wearing all his clothes backward as well. Why would someone, presumably the killer, have taken the trouble to create such a baffling scene? That’s one of the greatest riddles in Golden Age detective fiction, and it’s a shame that nothing in between the opening sequence and the two concluding chapters that follow Queen’s signature Challenge to the Reader remotely measures up to it. Since the corpse remains unidentified and there’s precious little evidence beyond the bizarre state of the murder room, Queen, whom this early case finds at his most mannered (“I don’t feel in the donative mood this morning”), spends his time chatting up the forgettable suspects—Kirk’s cantankerous father; his sister, Marcella; his partner, Felix Berne; his friend Glenn Macgowan; and the two women in his life, perceptive Jo Temple and seductive Irene Llewes—and alternately unearthing and dismissing red herrings. Penzler’s introduction, which focuses on the cousins who created the Queen pseudonym, is brief but informative.It’s easy to see why Queen’s exercise in deduction has dated badly: Everything about it is creaky and artificial, from the incredible logistics of the murder to the alleged passions of the characters. After all these years, though, the unbridled ingenuity of its central puzzle has never been surpassed.
Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018
Page Count: 264
Publisher: Penzler Publishers
Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Kathy Reichs ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 17, 2020
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
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020
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by James Patterson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 5, 2003
As in summer movies, a triple dose of violence conceals the absence of real menace when neither victims nor avengers stir...
Dr. Alex Cross has left Metro DC Homicide for the FBI, but it’s business as usual in this laughably rough-hewn fairy tale of modern-day white slavery.
According to reliable sources, more people are being sold into slavery than ever before, and it all seems to be going down on the FBI’s watch. Atlanta ex-reporter Elizabeth Connolly, who looks just like Claudia Schiffer, is the ninth target over the past two years to be abducted by a husband-and-wife pair who travel the country at the behest of the nefarious Pasha Sorokin, the Wolf of the Red Mafiya. The only clues are those deliberately left behind by the kidnappers, who snatch fashion designer Audrey Meek from the King of Prussia Mall in full view of her children, or patrons like Audrey’s purchaser, who ends up releasing her and killing himself. Who you gonna call? Alex Cross, of course. Even though he still hasn’t finished the Agency’s training course, all the higher-ups he runs into, from hardcases who trust him to lickspittles seething with envy, have obviously read his dossier (Four Blind Mice, 2002, etc.), and they know the new guy is “close to psychic,” a “one-man flying squad” who’s already a legend, “like Clarice Starling in the movies.” It’s lucky that Cross’s reputation precedes him, because his fond creator doesn’t give him much to do here but chase suspects identified by obliging tipsters and worry about his family (Alex Jr.’s mother, alarmed at Cross’s dangerous job, is suing for custody) while the Wolf and his cronies—Sterling, Mr. Potter, the Art Director, Sphinx, and the Marvel—kidnap more dishy women (and the occasional gay man) and kill everybody who gets in their way, and quite a few poor souls who don’t.As in summer movies, a triple dose of violence conceals the absence of real menace when neither victims nor avengers stir the slightest sympathy.
Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2003
Page Count: 400
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2003
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