A convoluted narrative desperately in need of an editor’s eye and at least a modicum of logic and emotional truth.




This mystery novel springboards from interspecies gene-mixing to murder, terrorism, dirty politics and the Disneyfication of Orlando, Fla.

When an Orlando researcher unknowingly uses a petri dish contaminated by the DNA of an escaped research “smart mouse” for the in vitro fertilization of his fiancée, it leads to the birth of an unusual daughter nicknamed “Meanie Mouse.” Her shared genes make for a high IQ, hatred of cats and a penchant for viciously righting wrongs, whether the offenders are violent thugs or inconsiderate moviegoers—the violence of Meanie’s reprisals make little distinction regarding the offenses’ severity. Unfortunately, Malphurs’ (Mexia: The Memoirs of J.C. Mulkey, 2009, etc.) literary payback for some of life’s common irritants isn’t humorous or creative enough to make his heroine more likable than her targets. The mysterious death of a young woman at a health-care center and the evildoings of the Rabid Rats gang involve Meanie with inept detectives, the Orlando Operators football team and booster club, a foiled terrorist plot, bungled plastic surgery, surprise pregnancies and a “beau” named Mookie. At times, his complicated plotlines seem to confuse even Malphurs. Meanie finishes her first year of college in one chapter, then again three chapters later. She and Mookie drive to a football game that they are already attending in the preceding paragraph. “Heavy traffic” occurs during a “heavy thunderstorm.” Malphurs’ characters are shallowly drawn, at the mercy of stilted dialogue (“Hooper looked tired and emotionally exhausted. His affect was flat.”), unintentional humor (Meanie hypnotizes men with a pearl necklace in her cleavage) and awkward love scenes (“He kissed her, pushing his tongue through to hers”). The characters act and speak immediately,” “quickly,” “suddenly,” “actually” and “truly.” They administer copious hugs, sometimes twice in the same paragraph, and Malphurs has his characters laugh, giggle, smile and chuckle regardless of the situation at hand.

A convoluted narrative desperately in need of an editor’s eye and at least a modicum of logic and emotional truth.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2009

ISBN: 978-0595517961

Page Count: 396

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2010

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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