Dark and juicy, the middle entry in Sáenz’s epic trilogy immerses readers in a vibrant, dangerous city.


A righteous police inspector is propelled into examining his past while facing personal and professional challenges in the present.

In the Spanish city of Vitoria, Inspector Unai López de Ayala, known as Kraken, gets a double whammy from his lover and boss, Deputy Superintendent Alba Díaz de Salvatierra: She’s pregnant, and the father might not be him but her dead husband, Nancho, a serial killer. His pursuit of Nancho in The Silence of the White City (2020) left Kraken with serious head injuries that have impaired his ability to speak. Though he narrates in a gritty first person, he regularly visits a speech therapist and rarely talks to others, preferring to conduct conversations in the texts peppered throughout. A message from Kraken’s partner, Estíbaliz, brings more bad news: Kraken’s first girlfriend, graphic novelist Ana Belén Liaño, has been murdered. Intermittent flashbacks to 1992 present their idyllic teen romance and provide an intriguing counterpoint to the main noir narrative. Sáenz’s large, boldly painted canvas includes a plague of inexplicable suicides by young women. Kraken’s collaboration with his own group of colorful irregulars—hacker extraordinaire Golden Girl; Tasio Ortiz de Zárate, long imprisoned as a serial killer but exonerated; street-wise skater MatuSalem; and others—is this story’s most enjoyable feature. The murder of one of Kraken’s old friends indicates both that he’s dealing with a serial killer and that he might be the killer’s focus.

Dark and juicy, the middle entry in Sáenz’s epic trilogy immerses readers in a vibrant, dangerous city.

Pub Date: March 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-9861-6

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A fierce 13-year-old girl propels this dark, moving thriller.

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A police chief who never grew up and a girl who never had a childhood try to solve the murder of someone they love.

A tiny, picturesque town on the California coast is an emotional prison for the characters of this impressive, often lyrical thriller. Its two main characters are a cop with an improbable naïveté and a child too old for her years. Walk (short for Walker, his last name) is chief of the two-person police department in Cape Haven and a native son. He’s kind and conscientious and haunted by a crime that occurred when he was a teenager, the death of a girl named Sissy Radley, whose body Walk discovered. Duchess Radley is that child’s niece, the daughter of Star Radley, the town’s doomed beauty. Most men lust after Star, including several of her neighbors and perhaps a sinister real estate developer named Dickie Darke. But Star is a substance abuser in a downward spiral, and her fatherless kids, Duchess and her younger brother, Robin, get, at best, Star’s benign neglect. Walk, who’s known Star since they were kids, is the family’s protector. As the book begins, all of them are coming to terms with the return to town of Vincent King. He’s Walk’s former best friend, Star’s former boyfriend, and he’s served a 30-year prison term for the death of Sissy (and that of a man he killed in prison). Someone will end up dead, and the murder mystery structures the book. But its core is Duchess, a rage-filled girl who is her brother’s tender, devoted caretaker, a beauty like her mother, and a fist-swinging fighter who introduces herself as “the outlaw Duchess Day Radley.” Whitaker crafts an absorbing plot around crimes in the present and secrets long buried, springing surprises to the very end.

A fierce 13-year-old girl propels this dark, moving thriller.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-75966-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Perfect reading for socially distanced shut-ins who’ll be pleased to learn that things could indeed be much, much worse.


Tibbehah County Sheriff Quinn Colson’s 10th appearance finds him hard-pressed to keep his patch of Mississippi in line after his near-fatal shooting in The Shameless (2019) sidelines him in favor of an acting sheriff who’s worse than no help at all.

How much worse? Well, when Quinn’s 12-year-old nephew, Jason, goes AWOL along with his schoolmate Ana Gabriel Hernandez-Ramirez to accept an unsavory invitation to follow the trail of Ana’s mother, one of 53 undocumented workers from the local chicken processing plant rounded up by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Brock Tanner won’t issue an Amber Alert. It’s clear that Tanner is uncomfortably cozy with grasping madam Fannie Hathcock, “the queen hellcat of north Mississippi”; with J.K. Vardaman, the good-old-boy governor who’s never met a graft he wouldn’t latch onto; and with the Watchmen, a militia looking to boost their stockpile of weapons. Tanner’s deputies harass Quinn’s kid sister, Caddy, and go even further with activist Hector Herrera. The ongoing battle is complicated this time by the release of Donnie Varner from the prison where he’s served eight years for dealing guns. Readers waiting to see whether he’ll renew his friendship with Quinn, find romance with his old flame Caddy, or end up brokering a massive arms deal for the Watchmen will be treated to another bracing immersion in Tibbehah County’s teeming criminal culture, whose opportunistic alliances between bad guys and the lawmen sworn to protect them would be outrageous if they weren’t utterly routine.

Perfect reading for socially distanced shut-ins who’ll be pleased to learn that things could indeed be much, much worse.

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53949-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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