Among the most action-packed of Buckley’s always-engrossing looks at Elizabethan lives and times.

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THE RELUCTANT ASSASSIN

Being related to a queen is no sinecure for a widow with heavy responsibilities.

Ursula Stannard, whose status as the illegitimate half sister of Queen Elizabeth I has often pressed her into service as a spy for the queen (A Deadly Betrothal, 2017, etc.), is taking a breather to raise her young son, watch over her estates and stud farm, and enjoy life. At Richmond Palace for a visit with Elizabeth, who wants her advice on a proposed marriage to the French Prince Francis, Duke of Alençon and Anjou—who’s Catholic and therefore not beloved of the English people—Ursula must also fight off marriage proposals. Although Elizabeth, who’s already dealing with the difficult problem of Mary Stuart, a magnet for schemes to restore Catholicism to England, enjoys the prince’s company, she has qualms about both the physical side of marriage and the power he’d have over her. Agreeing to inquire into local feelings, Ursula is delighted to go home to Hawkswood even though she must hire a new stud groom and a tutor for 9-year-old Harry. The new tutor turns out to be the son of her trusted servant Brockley, a son he never knew he had. Disaster strikes when Harry vanishes while out riding; a painstaking search turns up no sign of him. Then Ursula is attacked, her dogs are killed, and she’s rolled in a carpet and carried off. Her captors reveal that they’re holding Harry as a guarantee that she’ll agree to assassinate Mary. They even give her a phial of hemlock to do the deed. A visit to the queen and her spymaster gets her the permission she needs. As she goes to Mary’s side pretending to seek her death, she leaves Brockley to do everything in his power to rescue Harry.

Among the most action-packed of Buckley’s always-engrossing looks at Elizabethan lives and times.

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78029-103-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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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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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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