A low-concept small-town procedural that delivers more authenticity than suspense, with so many forgettable suspects,...

BONE BOX

An unwelcome discovery Rina Lazarus makes on a woodsy trail begins what feels like an endless new investigation for her husband, Greenbury Police Detective Peter Decker (The Theory of Death, 2015, etc.).

The skeletal hand Rina steps on has clearly been buried, not entirely successfully, for years, and the first challenge for the little Greenbury force is to figure out who the victim was and which of the fictitious Five Colleges she came from. The initial assumption that the corpse is female turns out to be only half-right, or both right and wrong: it’s Lawrence Pettigrew, who dropped out of Morse McKinley seven years ago for the gender reassignment surgery that would make her Lorraine. Pettigrew’s ambiguous gender status—she identified as female and took female hormones but never went through with the last surgical procedure that would have completed her transition—is only the first of several intriguing matters Kellerman raises but doesn’t resolve. Instead, the case circles back to the past when another corpse is improbably discovered 100 yards away: that of Delilah Occum, who vanished from Clarion College three years ago. It’s a good thing Rina can use her contacts at Hillel to supply Decker and his very junior partner, Harvard Law student Tyler McAdams, with a list of students who’ve gone missing from the Five Colleges over the years, because there’s no sign that the murders are over, and everyone in the area, from charismatic professors to drug suppliers to horny boyfriends, seems to be involved. The wide net Decker is forced to cast leads to false starts, dead ends, and eventually multiple arrests and several far more satisfying hours of sweating the perps in interrogation rooms just in time for Rina to turn away from her much-remarked handguns (are you listening, Anton Chekhov?) and start cooking for Rosh Hashana.

A low-concept small-town procedural that delivers more authenticity than suspense, with so many forgettable suspects, witnesses, and potential victims that you’ll need a grade book to keep them straight.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-242496-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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