The most extroverted of Ellery’s early cases and the least dominated by the relentlessly brainy sleuth.


Publisher Otto Penzler’s fourth visit to the Queen vault resurrects a tale of four crucifixions originally published in 1932.

Ellery and his father, NYPD Detective Richard Queen, happen to be passing close enough to Arroyo, West Virginia, to merit a detour to the scene of the first crime: the beheading of schoolmaster Andrew Van, who’s been celebrating Christmas morning by getting nailed to a T-shaped cross. Although circumstantial evidence casts suspicion on Harakht, a self-avowed Healer of the Weak, and Velja Krosac, a limping man, the local authorities, dismissing the first and unable to find the second, remain baffled by the outré savagery of the crime. So does Ellery, who’s “never run across anything as baldly lunatic as this,” until he runs into it again six months later, when professor Yardley, his old teacher, invites him to visit. Yardley’s new home in Nassau County gives him a ringside seat to the Bradwood estate, whose owner, wealthy carpet importer Thomas Brad, has been beheaded and crucified across the bay from a nudist colony operated by Harakht and his chief disciple, Paul Romaine. Returning from a yearlong trip, Brad’s partner, yachtsman Stephen Megara, immediately informs the police that the killer is Velja Krosac, who’s still carrying a grudge over a family feud. A nationwide dragnet fails to capture the suspect or prevent two more crucifixions. Although Ellery and Yardley both display endless (and in the end irrelevant) erudition on Egyptology at the expense of the forgettable secondary characters, the canny inferences the hero draws from a pipe, a checker, and a bottle of iodine are still impressive.

The most extroverted of Ellery’s early cases and the least dominated by the relentlessly brainy sleuth.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61316-177-7

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Penzler Publishers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A whodunit upstaged at every point by the unforgettably febrile intensity of the heroine’s first-person narrative.


Emerson’s striking debut follows a Navajo police photographer almost literally to hell and back.

Rita Todacheene sees dead people. Since most of her attempts to talk to someone about her special power while she was growing up on the reservation ended in disaster, she’s tried to keep it to herself during her five years with the Albuquerque Police Department. Her precarious peace is shattered by the death of Erma Singleton, manager of a bar owned by Matias Romero, her common-law husband. Although lazy Detective Martin Garcia has ruled that Erma fell from a highway bridge, her body shattered by the truck that hit her on the roadway below, Erma insists that she was pushed from the bridge. “Help me get back to my baby,” she tells Rita, “or I’ll make your life a living hell.” Since Rita, a civilian employee, has few resources for an investigation, Erma opens a portal that unleashes scores of ghosts on her, all clamoring for justice or mercy or a few words with the loved ones they left behind. The nightmare that propels Rita forward, from snapping photos of Judge Harrison Winters and his wife and children and dog, all shot dead in what Garcia calls a murder-suicide, to revelations that link both these deaths and Erma’s to the drug business of the Sinaloa cartel, is interleaved with repeated flashbacks that show the misfit Rita’s early years on her Navajo reservation and in her Catholic grade school as she struggles to come to terms with a gift that feels more like a curse. The appeal of the case as a series kickoff is matched by the challenges Emerson will face in pulling off any sequels.

A whodunit upstaged at every point by the unforgettably febrile intensity of the heroine’s first-person narrative.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-641-29333-4

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Soho Crime

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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