Some of the finer points could have used clarification, but readers looking for a diverting, compact murder mystery will be...


A PI exposes corruption while trying to prove the innocence of a young man accused of killing a cop in McClendon’s debut mystery novel.

Former NYPD officer–turned-gumshoe Brian Kelly picked a bad time to stop smoking. While suffering physical withdrawal and dreams of aggressive, sharp-toothed packs of cigarettes, he’s working a case to help clear murder suspect James Turner. The murder seems to be mob-related, but it’s clear that dirty cops have their hands in it—and someone thinks James knows the location of a hefty amount of cash. McClendon’s story starts on solid footing for a murder mystery: It opens on a stormy night with a mother proclaiming her son’s innocence to a lowly private eye. Some of the novel’s beginning, however, appears to be missing a few pieces: Details of the case aren’t explained prior to the investigation but only as it unfolds, and Kelly never looks into the initial murder victim, whose name isn’t even given until a quarter of the way into the story. But there are plenty of morsels to savor, from a mysterious phone call James receives on the night of the murder to Kelly’s finding no arrest record for a missing restaurant owner who’d been taken away by police officers. McClendon helps keep things in focus by providing a recap of the case. Kelly’s decision to give up smoking adds a searing dynamic to his character, a film noir detective in a perpetual state of being slipped a mickey; peppermints become his new addiction. Especially refreshing is Kelly’s relationship to attorney Julie Black, who recommends him to Turner’s mother—Kelly’s unrequited love whom he has known since childhood and who doesn’t seem interested in dating him. Another murder or two follow the first, and while specifics or motivations for some of the events aren’t fully fleshed out even by book’s end, the responsible party is made abundantly clear. The final pages forgo the mystery in favor of a scorching action scene centered on a rescue mission.

Some of the finer points could have used clarification, but readers looking for a diverting, compact murder mystery will be more than content.

Pub Date: May 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-1481751605

Page Count: 168

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2014

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


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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