Although the Scottish hero and his apothecary sidekick in Dillon’s series debut are a mite anachronistic in their pursuit of...

AYRSHIRE MURDERS

A deputy sheriff balances patriotic loyalty against sworn duty in late-13th-century Scotland.

After he lost his wife and child in a fire, Kyle Shaw hired out his battle-ax to King Philip of France. When he returns to his home in Ayrshire, Scotland, he agrees to resume his former post of deputy to the ailing sheriff Reginald de Crawford, even though the office has diminished over the years. The Scottish king is the prisoner of Edward Longshanks, King of England, whose soldiers have occupied Scotland and assumed increasing power, especially Sir Henry de Percy, the Castellan of Ayr. Although Kyle is able to fend off a band of English raiders stealing sheep from a small holding, he’s hard-pressed to demand justice for the victim, who claims that what the English, or Southrons, can’t confiscate legally, they simply seize. When Megan Brodie, a girl of 16, is raped and murdered, Kyle asks an apothecary friend to examine the girl’s body and learns she was pregnant. Megan’s father insists that Lucky Jack Sweeney, captain of horse at Ayr Garrison, is the murderer, and Kyle suspects the Englishman is also the father of Megan’s child. But the deputy must proceed cautiously and prevent the aggrieved father from avenging his daughter’s defiling and death. Good Scotsman though he is, Kyle is bound to keep civil order and follow English law, much as he doubts that Sir Henry will take action against his own countryman. Kyle is also charged with protecting a royal envoy to Philip at the same time painful rumors about his father’s death five years ago add to his grief, which a hint of romance to come could ease. 

Although the Scottish hero and his apothecary sidekick in Dillon’s series debut are a mite anachronistic in their pursuit of forensic science, Kyle is an attractive hero trying to do right by both Southrons and Scots.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4328-2878-3

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Five Star/Gale Cengage

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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