Move this one to the top of your list if you still pine for linear algebra. The unenlightened may want to wait and see...

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THE THEORY OF DEATH

Detective Peter Decker welcomes his insufferable former colleague Tyler McAdams, shot at the end of Murder 101 (2014), back to the Greenbury, New York, police force with open arms and violent death.

McAdams, who’s supposed to be studying for his exams at Harvard Law School, says he wants to stay with Decker and his wife, Rina, for peace and quiet and a chance to hit the books without distractions. Distractions promptly arise when Kneed Loft College senior Eli Wolf is found shot to death, his clothes piled neatly next to him, in a snowy field. A car accident six years ago that killed the friend who was driving and broke his brother Jacob’s leg scrambled Eli’s brain. Born into a Mennonite family whose rapport with each other is laconic even when they’re most demonstrative, he’s been drifting further into the world of theoretical mathematics and away from everything else. Now that Decker must question Jacob, Eli’s closemouthed parents, and his even more socially challenged mentors and friends at Kneed Loft, McAdams is eager to get in on the action—if that’s what you want to call the brightly didactic passages explaining Fourier transforms and stochastic oscillators that take the place of Rina Decker’s customary disquisitions on Jewish rituals. Fueled by the discovery of some incomprehensible papers Eli hid in his dorm room, Decker and McAdams talk to the boy's sort-of friend Mallon Euler, who turns out to have quite a crush on McAdams; Dr. Theo Rosser, Eli’s megalomaniac adviser; and paranoid Dr. Katrina Belfort, who lacks the tenure that would presumably suck her last remaining humanity from her. The discovery of a second corpse sharpens the urgency of their inquiries but does nothing to focus them, until eventually one of their several theories of the case, no more or less interesting than the others, hits home.

Move this one to the top of your list if you still pine for linear algebra. The unenlightened may want to wait and see what’s on offer next term.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-227021-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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