A pioneering, preposterously far-fetched, but still impressive example of the locked-in-a-cabin whodunit.

THE SIAMESE TWIN MYSTERY

Chased up isolated Arrow Mountain by a forest fire that’s made the roads downhill impassable, Ellery Queen and his father, New York’s Inspector Richard Queen, find that what awaits them at Arrow Lodge, atop the mountain, is even more murderous.

Arrow Lodge, where the Queens arrive without invitation in the middle of the night, is something of a haunted house, complete with a scuttling figure Inspector Queen describes as a giant crab and a retainer who could plausibly have been played by Boris Karloff on the tale’s first publication in 1933. Dr. John Xavier, a celebrated surgeon who’s retired at 45, is clearly engaged in some kind of hush-hush research. But although he’s a cordial host to his unexpected guests, he says nothing that first night about the work he and Dr. Percival Holmes are doing, and by morning he’s lost his chance, shot to death with half a playing card, the six of spades, clutched in his hand. That card and a knave of diamonds found ripped in half in the dead hand of Dr. Xavier’s brother, Mark, when he’s murdered soon after, are virtually the only clues Ellery has, but he expatiates on their significance so early and often that some readers, though very few of the tiny cast of characters, may forget the much more pressing threat of the fire that’s inexorably climbing closer and closer. The result is the most atmospheric of the early cases about and by Queen (The Dutch Shoe Mystery, 1931, etc.) and the one in which the detective’s legendary analytical prowess (“what I am about to say constitutes probably the most fantastic reconstruction of a clue in the history of the so-called ‘clever’ crime”) is both most impressive and most strained, improbable, and out of place.

A pioneering, preposterously far-fetched, but still impressive example of the locked-in-a-cabin whodunit.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61316-154-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Penzler Publishers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

FLESH AND BLOOD

Happy birthday, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. But no Florida vacation for you and your husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley—not because President Barack Obama is visiting Cambridge, but because a deranged sniper has come to town.

Shortly after everyone’s favorite forensic pathologist (Dust, 2013, etc.) receives a sinister email from a correspondent dubbed Copperhead, she goes outside to find seven pennies—all polished, all turned heads-up, all dated 1981—on her garden wall. Clearly there’s trouble afoot, though she’s not sure what form it will take until five minutes later, when a call from her old friend and former employee Pete Marino, now a detective with the Cambridge Police, summons her to the scene of a shooting. Jamal Nari was a high school music teacher who became a minor celebrity when his name was mistakenly placed on a terrorist watch list; he claimed government persecution, and he ended up having a beer with the president. Now he’s in the news for quite a different reason. Bizarrely, the first tweets announcing his death seem to have preceded it by 45 minutes. And Leo Gantz, a student at Nari’s school, has confessed to his murder, even though he couldn’t possibly have done it. But these complications are only the prelude to a banquet of homicide past and present, as Scarpetta and Marino realize when they link Nari’s murder to a series of killings in New Jersey. For a while, the peripheral presence of the president makes you wonder if this will be the case that finally takes the primary focus off the investigator’s private life. But most of the characters are members of Scarpetta’s entourage, the main conflicts involve infighting among the regulars, and the killer turns out to be a familiar nemesis Scarpetta thought she’d left for dead several installments back. As if.

No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232534-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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THE BLACK ECHO

Big, brooding debut police thriller by Los Angeles Times crime-reporter Connelly, whose labyrinthine tale of a cop tracking vicious bank-robbers sparks and smolders but never quite catches fire. Connelly shows off his deep knowledge of cop procedure right away, expertly detailing the painstaking examination by LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus (Harry) Bosch of the death-scene of sometime junkie Billy Meadows, whom Bosch knew as a fellow "tunnel rat" in Vietnam and who's now o.d.'d in an abandoned water tunnel. Pushing Meadows's death as murder while his colleagues see it as accidental, Bosch, already a black sheep for his vigilante-like ways, further alienates police brass and is soon shadowed by two nastily clownish Internal Affairs cops wherever he goes—even to FBI headquarters, which Bosch storms after he learns that the Bureau had investigated him for a tunnel-engineered bank robbery that Meadows is implicated in. Assigned to work with beautiful, blond FBI agent Eleanor Wish, who soon shares his bed in an edgy alliance, Bosch comes to suspect that the robbers killed Meadows because the vet pawned some of the loot, and that their subsequent killing of the only witness to the Meadows slaying points to a turned cop. But who? Before Bosch can find out, a trace on the bank-robbery victims points him toward a fortune in smuggled diamonds and the likelihood of a second heist—leading to the blundering death of the IAD cops, the unveiling of one bad cop, an anticipated but too-brief climax in the L.A. sewer tunnels, and, in a twisty anticlimax, the revelation of a second rotten law officer. Swift and sure, with sharp characterizations, but at heart really a tightly wrapped package of cop-thriller cliches, from the hero's Dirty Harry persona to the venal brass, the mad-dog IAD cops, and the not-so-surprising villains. Still, Connelly knows his turf and perhaps he'll map it more freshly next time out.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 1992

ISBN: 0-316-15361-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1991

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