Appealing characters, a brewing primer, and myriad suspects combine in a sprightly adventure.

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BEYOND A REASONABLE STOUT

An entire Washington town is threatened by a feud over alcohol.

Leavenworth lives and dies by beer. It’s tricked out to look like a Bavarian village, with shops that sell all things German and restaurants and breweries that draw in year-round crowds. Sloan Krause, who’s on the verge of divorcing her cheating husband, Mac Krause, adores his parents, Otto and Ursula, who made her feel welcome after she’d spent much of her life living in foster homes. Sloan has a share in the family business, Der Keller, but is working for Garrett Strong, whose nanobrewery, Nitro, is anything but retro. The businesspeople are up in arms over an upcoming election for city council, as current member Kristopher Cooper has suddenly decided that Leavenworth should go dry. After a raucous meeting at Der Keller punctuated by personal attacks, Cooper is found stabbed in the office of April Albin, the self-proclaimed ambassador for the town whose repertory includes kitschy German outfits and a fake accent. April is arrested by Police Chief Meyers, who’s worked with Sloan before and trusts her sleuthing abilities (The Pint of No Return, 2018, etc.). April begs for Sloan’s help. Even though she’s truly annoying, Sloan doesn’t believe she’s a killer. The problem is that there are endless suspects who hated Cooper for a plan that would ruin every business in town. As Sloan goes about her business, she picks up tidbits that might help solve the crime. She works with Garrett on concocting new brews for the winter holidays and refurbishing rooms above the brewery for a planned B&B. But she’s distracted by hints from Sally, her former social worker, that there are mysterious and possibly dangerous circumstances surrounding her birthparents. Although Sloan’s talents help solve Cooper’s murder, her past hints at future problems.

Appealing characters, a brewing primer, and myriad suspects combine in a sprightly adventure.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-20575-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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.

THINGS IN JARS

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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