The second (The Wounded Thorn, 2015) in a new series could benefit from some pruning but offers plenty of suspects and does...



A master class in crime writing unintentionally offers a real murder to solve.

Gavin Standforth is using his reputation, based on one highly successful mystery novel, The Long Crippler, to run a weekendlong class at historic Morland Abbey in Devon, England, now a posh hotel. Hilary Masters, a retired teacher with a love for history, and her recently widowed friend, Veronica Taylor, have signed up. As an added attraction, there is an opening session with 92-year-old Dinah Halsgrove, the reigning queen of crime writing. A mixed bag of attendees enjoys Halsgrove’s lecture and the next day’s boat trip on the River Dart, which Halsgrove does not attend for the very good reason that she has been found collapsed. That night, Hilary is disturbed by someone attempting to enter her room; it turns out to be Gavin’s helper, Melissa, who he claims was sleepwalking. Gavin has divided the wannabe authors into three groups—the Toads, the Snakes, and the Slowworms—and he offers a prize to the person who can explain the derivation. He challenges the group to start off their stories with a strong sense of place, and, to that end, they scatter, looking for inspiration. Hilary visits nearby Totnes and follows the mysterious Leechwell Street to three basins served by three springs that a passer-by tells her have healing powers and are called the Toad, the Snake, and the Long Crippler—which is another name for a slowworm. Some students think Halsgrove’s illness is part of a stunt to make the class more interesting, but that idea is quashed when the police arrive asking questions. Hilary and Veronica walk to Totnes to see the well only to find Melissa, who it turns out is Gavin’s wife, lying in the Long Crippler. Hilary’s CPR attempts fail, and this time the police have no doubts it was murder but are not interested in Hilary and Veronica’s theories. Hilary is quite determined to solve the case, but how can she know what might motivate anyone in the disparate group of mystery mavens to kill?

The second (The Wounded Thorn, 2015) in a new series could benefit from some pruning but offers plenty of suspects and does not make it easy to winkle out the killer.

Pub Date: June 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8930-0

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.


Murder and mayhem plague a film set on a secluded island off the coast of Delaware in Little’s (Dear Daughter, 2015, etc.) sophomore thriller.

When film editor Marissa Dahl takes a job on a new film directed by the talented but temperamental Tony Rees, she’s not given a script and must sign a mile-long nondisclosure agreement. It’s not ideal, but she needs the work. Escorted by an attractive ex–Navy SEAL named Isaiah, Marissa arrives on Kickout Island to find a bustling set, headquartered at a beautiful hotel, that is cloaked in secrecy and beset with dysfunction. Once Marissa gets down to work, she realizes that picking up the slack from the previous editor, who was fired for unknown reasons, won’t be smooth sailing and that the movie is based on the real-life unsolved murder of aspiring actress Caitlyn Kelly 25 years ago on that very island. Most folks assume that an eccentric ferry captain named Billy Lyle, a friend of Caitlyn’s, was the killer, but there was never enough evidence to convict. A few people, however, think he may be innocent. Marissa sets out to discover what really happened to Caitlyn with the help of Isaiah and two intrepid, tech-savvy 13-year-olds—Grace Portillo and Suzy Koh, whose parents work for the hotel. What she finds is a dead body and a whole lot of trouble. Readers fascinated with the behind-the-scenes machinations of a movie set will be enthralled, plus there’s a frisson of romantic tension between Isaiah and Marissa, and the island setting lends some spooky atmosphere. Snippets from Grace and Suzy’s true-crime podcast, Dead Ringer, are also sprinkled throughout. Though a killer on the loose adds a fair bit of urgency in the second half, the main focus is on Little’s singular narrator. Marissa relates to the world primarily through film and considers herself anything but typical: “It’s possible I’ve spent so much time watching movies that the language of film has infiltrated some primal, necessary part of my brain. I catch myself processing my own emotions in scenes, in shots, in dialogue.”

A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-670-01639-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet