A vet with investigative chops and his loyal coonhound make an appealing duo in this origin story.

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TAKING ON LUCINDA

A KENT STEPHENSON THRILLER

In this debut thriller, a fire destroys the research wing of a rural upstate New York cosmetic corporation’s headquarters, casting suspicion on the animal rights activists who recently protested at the company.

Kent Stephenson’s older brother, Merrill, Jefferson’s chief of police, enforces the law, and their misfit half brother, Maylon (nicknamed May-May), has been known to break it. Kent, a small-town veterinarian always in the company of his coonhound, Lucinda, focuses on doing the right thing, especially when it comes to animals. Kent once had romantic feelings toward Stef Copithorn, CEO of the cosmetic company that’s crucial to the local economy. Aubrey Fairbanks, field representative for the Hollywood-based Freedom of Animals Movement, is in town organizing a protest against animal testing conducted by Stef’s company. Kent’s attraction to gorgeous Aubrey is a professional, not personal, concern to the now openly gay Stef. The two women disagree vehemently about the humaneness of animal welfare codes. When a blaze obliterates the cosmetic company’s research wing, suspicion falls on FOAM, and Kent feels duped—at least for a time—by Aubrey, with whom he’s begun a relationship. During Kent’s visit with his wheelchair-bound mother, June Stephenson Mays, the two discuss the fire and also the supposed suicide of a well-known local journalist. June does not believe the man—her dear friend—killed himself; she says it had to be murder, and Kent vows to find out if she’s right. He also questions her about his jailbird half brother’s recent activities and ponders their legitimacy. Kent finds more to investigate when a family member is apparently murdered. In addition, dogs in the town, disappearing occasionally at first, start to vanish in record numbers. Can Lucinda remain unscathed? Martorana produces a compelling story starring an engaging hero. The author also introduces notable characters like June, with her “matchstick legs,” “kittenish white hair,” and no-nonsense attitude. At one point, she tells Kent that May-May’s “got his father’s wickedness.” Descriptions are strong, such as the account of how police cars are clustered at a crime scene: “The lot was jammed with official vehicles parked at all angles, the way cops like to do.” Both sides of the animal rights controversy are well-presented. But the depictions of abused animals could be upsetting to some readers.

A vet with investigative chops and his loyal coonhound make an appealing duo in this origin story.

Pub Date: March 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9989326-0-6

Page Count: 282

Publisher: VinChaRo Ventures LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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