A wry, sad coming-of-age story and a well-crafted first novel.

THE VAN APFEL GIRLS ARE GONE

A journalist makes her fiction debut with a tale of missing girls as told by one girl who never stopped missing them.

So many girls disappear. This is true in life. It’s maybe even truer in fiction. Girls who go missing are an endless source of fascination. Or maybe this is just when the girls are white and, at the very least, middle-class. These girls are especially compelling when they’re beautiful. Cordelia Van Apfel was white, middle-class, and beautiful before she and her sisters vanished from an Australian suburb in 1992, and she is the absence at the heart of McLean’s debut novel. Tikka Malloy is heading home from America because her sister, Laura, is battling cancer. Tikka’s return doesn’t revive her search for the beguiling Cordie—she has never stopped searching for Cordie; she sees Cordie everywhere—but Tikka’s presence brings long-buried secrets back to the surface of the insular community in which she and her sister became friends with the Van Apfel girls before they disappeared. Tikka has a sharp sense of self-awareness. She recognizes that her place in the hierarchy of neighborhood girls—not quite included by the older girls, eager to separate herself from the younger—and the trauma of losing her friends have left her stunted as an adult. But all of this makes Tikka a terrific narrator. She examines her memories with the perspective of a grown-up, and she finds that people who were reticent to tell her everything when the Van Apfel girls went missing are eager to unburden themselves now. Tikka’s conversations with her father are especially affecting, and of course the local busybody and Tupperware saleswoman has a great deal of information and insight to share. There are, ultimately, no real surprises. What happened to Cordie is something that happens to any number of girls. It’s the disappearance of her sisters with her that made her story sensational. But Cordie isn’t like other girls for Tikka, which makes her special for the reader, too.

A wry, sad coming-of-age story and a well-crafted first novel.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61620-964-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

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LONG RANGE

Once again, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett gets mixed up in a killing whose principal suspect is his old friend Nate Romanowski, whose attempts to live off the grid keep breaking down in a series of felony charges.

If Judge Hewitt hadn’t bent over to pick up a spoon that had fallen from his dinner table, the sniper set up nearly a mile from his house in the gated community of the Eagle Mountain Club would have ended his life. As it was, the victim was Sue Hewitt, leaving the judge alive and free to rail and threaten anyone he suspected of the shooting. Incoming Twelve Sleep County Sheriff Brendan Kapelow’s interest in using the case to promote his political ambitions and the judge’s inability to see further than his nose make them the perfect targets for a frame-up of Nate, who just wants to be left alone in the middle of nowhere to train his falcons and help his bride, Liv Brannon, raise their baby, Kestrel. Nor are the sniper, the sheriff, and the judge Nate’s only enemies. Orlando Panfile has been sent to Wyoming by the Sinaloan drug cartel to avenge the deaths of the four assassins whose careers Nate and Joe ended last time out (Wolf Pack, 2019). So it’s up to Joe, with some timely data from his librarian wife, Marybeth, to hire a lawyer for Nate, make sure he doesn’t bust out of jail before his trial, identify the real sniper, who continues to take an active role in the proceedings, and somehow protect him from a killer who regards Nate’s arrest as an unwelcome complication. That’s quite a tall order for someone who can’t shoot straight, who keeps wrecking his state-issued vehicles, and whose appalling mother-in-law, Missy Vankeuren Hand, has returned from her latest European jaunt to suck up all the oxygen in Twelve Sleep County to hustle some illegal drugs for her cancer-stricken sixth husband. But fans of this outstanding series will know better than to place their money against Joe.

One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53823-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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