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DEATH AT THE FAIR

An energetic story of politics, racism and murder set against the whirl of the White City.

A compelling tale of the Chicago World’s Fair, complete with history, mystery and a likable heroine.

Against the backdrop of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, McNamara deftly weaves themes of Southern honor, Northern political graft, post-Civil War abolitionist concerns, nascent women’s suffrage and tangled familial relationships. Emily Cabot, a graduate student of sociology at the University of Chicago, and her Boston-based family visit the Fair accompanied by her professor, Dr. Chapman. A chance meeting with Emily’s classmate Clara, and her family and friends from Kentucky, reveals Dr. Chapman’s past romantic involvement with a Mrs. Larrimer, now the wife of a powerful Southern cotton dealer. When Mr. Larrimer is killed, all evidence points to Dr. Chapman–or does it? Emily’s conviction in his innocence leads to detective work ranging from high tea in frills to finagling audiences with members of the powerful Chicago political machine and finally to donning boy’s clothing and spying on a covert gambling session on the Midway. In addition to solid pacing and engaging storytelling, the plot incorporates historical figures like Frederick Douglass, Mayor Carter Harrison and Eugene Prendergast, nicely balancing historical exposition with narrative drive. Racial relations under Reconstruction come alive as Emily discovers the secret in Larrimer’s past and requests the help of Ida B. Wells and her editor husband F. L. Barnett. Emily’s own precarious position as a female graduate student involved in a scandal results in an examination of social mores and gender double standards. Although the White City of the Fair and the dingy, corrupt city of Chicago offer strong settings for an engaging tale, grammatical rough spots of run-on sentences, comma misuse and inconsistent spelling often slow the story. With an eye to her readership, McNamara includes a historical epilogue, bibliography and reading group discussion questions, as well as the first ten pages of the next Emily Cabot book, Death at Hull House.

An energetic story of politics, racism and murder set against the whirl of the White City.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4392-0618-8

Page Count: -

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2010

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE WINNER

Irritatingly trite woman-in-periler from lawyer-turned-novelist Baldacci. Moving away from the White House and the white-shoe Washington law firms of his previous bestsellers (Absolute Power, 1996; Total Control, 1997), Baldacci comes up with LuAnn Tyler, a spunky, impossibly beautiful, white-trash truck stop waitress with a no-good husband and a terminally cute infant daughter in tow. Some months after the birth of Lisa, LuAnn gets a phone call summoning her to a make-shift office in an unrented storefront of the local shopping mall. There, she gets a Faustian offer from a Mr. Jackson, a monomaniacal, cross-dressing manipulator who apparently knows the winning numbers in the national lottery before the numbers are drawn. It seems that LuAnn fits the media profile of what a lottery winner should be—poor, undereducated but proud—and if she's willing to buy the right ticket at the right time and transfer most of her winnings to Jackson, she'll be able to retire in luxury. Jackson fails to inform her, however, that if she refuses his offer, he'll have her killed. Before that can happen, as luck would have it, LuAnn barely escapes death when one of husband Duane's drug deals goes bad. She hops on a first-class Amtrak sleeper to Manhattan with a hired executioner in pursuit. But executioner Charlie, one of Jackson's paid handlers, can't help but hear wedding bells when he sees LuAnn cooing with her daughter. Alas, a winning $100- million lottery drawing complicates things. Jackson spirits LuAnn and Lisa away to Sweden, with Charlie in pursuit. Never fear. Not only will LuAnn escape a series of increasingly violent predicaments, but she'll also outwit Jackson, pay an enormous tax bill to the IRS, and have enough left over to honeymoon in Switzerland. Too preposterous to work as feminine wish-fulfillment, too formulaic to be suspenseful. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52259-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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