As for the solution that follows Queen’s signature “Challenge to the Reader,” it’s one of Ellery’s brainiest, built on a...



Ratiocination king Queen’s third case, originally published in 1931, finds him fortuitously on the scene minutes after strangling makes the scheduled surgery on a high-profile hospital patient unnecessary.

Wealthy philanthropist Abigail Doorn has been such a durable patron saint of the Dutch Memorial Hospital, and in particular of head surgeon Dr. Francis Janney, that when she goes into a diabetic coma, tumbles down a flight of stairs, and ruptures her gall bladder, there’s no question where she’ll go for treatment or who’ll perform the surgery. Ellery Queen, who’s dropped in to ask his old friend Dr. John Minchen a technical question about rigor mortis and then accepted his invitation to stay and watch the procedure, happens to be on hand when Abby is wheeled into the operating theater, unveiled, and found to be dead, a loop of wire embedded in her neck. The initial evidence seems to point the finger at Janney himself, but a brisk round of questioning and a search of the surrounding rooms indicate that the hospital’s leading benefactor was murdered by someone impersonating her favorite doctor, someone who left behind a hastily basted set of white duck trousers and a pair of shoes that become the principal, and virtually the sole, clue to the mystery. The suspects, as usual in the early Queens (The Chinese Orange Mystery, 1934/2018, etc.), are forgettable, and the potential motives straight off the rack. But the consistent emphasis on the hospital’s rigorous routine not only provides important evidence, but makes Ellery seem relatively less stiff than usual, though it’s still hard to forgive the constant drip of quotations presumably meant to indicate his irresistible erudition.

As for the solution that follows Queen’s signature “Challenge to the Reader,” it’s one of Ellery’s brainiest, built on a slender foundation but expounded at such exhaustive length that only the most churlish readers would think of resisting it.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61316-126-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Penzler Publishers

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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