Scattershot and self-indulgent.

KEHUA!

The consequences of a long-ago murder in New Zealand reverberate all the way to England in Weldon’s latest (Habits of the House, 2013, etc.).

Kehua are the Maori spirits of the wandering dead, and they seem to have followed Beverley to North London, where she is recuperating from a knee replacement and lending a skeptical ear to granddaughter Scarlet’s confidence that she is leaving her husband for a sexy but has-been movie star. “This running away habit can get compulsive,” her grandmother warns, and aging Beverley should know; she’s done a lot of it since she discovered her mother’s bloody corpse on the floor of their New Zealand home, killed by a jealous husband—or was it the lover who might be Beverley’s real father? Little is for certain in Weldon’s game-playing narrative, which keeps cutting away from the main story to a first-person commentary by the author in the midst of creating it, who thinks the basement where she writes may be haunted. The author’s preoccupation with the Victorian-era residents of her house isn’t terribly interesting, nor are her confidences about the process of writing fiction. There’s quite enough plot already in the complicated lives of Beverley and her restless descendants: daughter Alice, who found religion shortly after giving birth to Cynara, whose knee-jerk feminism and newfound lesbianism embarrass younger sister Scarlet and infuriate Cynara’s 16-year-old daughter, Lola, who’s a troublemaker all around. You know a writer is having trouble maintaining focus when she opens a chapter with the words, “Let me remind you.” Weldon remains a wickedly funny observer of the human comedy, and her portrait of four generations of women unsettled by spirits of whose existence they are unaware (the kehua: remember them?) is intermittently moving. But the late arrival of an unknown son and a second murder merely underscore Weldon’s lack of discipline and irritating confidence that every single word she writes is fascinating.

Scattershot and self-indulgent.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60945-137-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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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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As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution...

ROSES ARE RED

Who’s robbing all those banks and kidnapping all those people and killing all those accomplices? It’s somebody calling himself the Mastermind—a comic-book sobriquet that represents everything that’s wrong with the latest installment in Patterson’s Alex Cross franchise.

A young woman robs a bank in suburban Maryland and threatens to kill the manager’s family if she’s kept from meeting her timetable. She’s less than a minute late out the door, so the family dies. So does the robber. So do all the staff at a second bank after somebody tips the police off. Who could possibly be so ruthless? It’s the Mastermind, the evil genius who set up both robberies intending murder from the beginning—even warning the cops the second time. And robbing banks is only the beginning for the megalomaniac, who’s plotting a group abduction worth $30 million and a series of maneuvers that’ll feed his cat’s-paws to the police, or to the fishes. And since the Mastermind likes to see families suffer, he vows to take the war of nerves right to forensic psychologist Cross. But if he wants to ruin the D.C. detective’s life, he’ll have to stand in line, since Cross’s girlfriend Christine Johnson is pulling away from him and his daughter Jannie is suddenly having seizures. Despite his prowess with guns and fists, and his awesome insight into other people’s minds, Cross would be desperate if it weren’t for the timely embraces of FBI agent Betsey Cavalierre, to whom he’ll make passionate love while telling her, “I like being with you. A lot. Even more than I expected.” With an adversary like that, how can the Mastermind prevail?

As usual, Patterson (Cradle and All, p. 262, etc.) provides a nonstop alternation of felonies and righteous retribution unclouded by texture, thought, or moral complexity, to produce the speediest tosh on the planet.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2000

ISBN: 0-316-69325-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2000

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