As usual (Death at the Seaside, 2017, etc.), Brody provides an excellent feel for life in postwar England along with a...

DEATH IN THE STARS

The solar eclipse of 1927 provides the perfect backdrop for murder.

Private inquiry agent Kate Shackleton is intrigued when she gets a visit from adored stage star Selina Fellini and her manager, Trotter Brockett. Selina is married to Jarrod Compton, a talented composer who writes most of her songs but was badly scarred both physically and mentally in the war and is becoming more erratic every day. Now that she’s been invited to witness the eclipse by the Astronomer Royal at the Giggleswick School, Selina claims to be anxious about all the things that could go wrong on a trip that must be carefully planned to get her back in time for her latest performance. Kate arranges for herself, Selina, and her friend, famous comedian Billy Moffatt, to fly up and back. The eclipse is wonderful, but when Billy vanishes and is found near death, Kate suspects that there’s more to Selina’s fears than she’s revealed. Although the doctor is sure Billy’s suffering from a drug overdose, Kate thinks the cigar he was smoking was poisoned. Testing proves her right after Billy dies in the hospital. When they return to Leeds, Selina admits she suspects that two accidental deaths of her fellow performers may actually have been murders, and it’s obvious that she fears her husband may be involved. With the help of her housekeeper, Mrs. Sugden, and her assistant, former policeman Jim Sykes, Kate investigates the theater crowd in hopes of finding a better suspect. Along the way, she learns a good deal about the trends in a theatrical life on the cusp of changing over from music hall acts to plays and movies, and she wonders whether the motives for murder may lie in that change.

As usual (Death at the Seaside, 2017, etc.), Brody provides an excellent feel for life in postwar England along with a clever mystery full of theatrical red herrings.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-15479-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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