Though this sort-of prequel to Ramsay’s Ike Schwartz series (The Vulture, 2015, etc.) isn’t much of a mystery, it’s...

COPPER KETTLE

A decorated World War I veteran returns to Buffalo Mountain, Virginia, dissatisfied with the life he finds there after he’s seen Gay Paree and a whole lot more.

Jesse Sutherlin and his extended McAdoo family have spent generations scraping a living out of poor farming country, making moonshine and continuing their ongoing feud with the equally poor Lebrun clan, who live on the other side of the mountain. When a shellshocked veteran is killed while tending Big Tom McAdoo’s illegal still, Jesse’s hotheaded relatives overrule his reasonable objections and jump to the conclusion that the killer must have been a Lebrun. Big Tom gives Jesse, who’s seen too many men die in the killing fields of Europe, four days to find out the truth before a battle breaks out. Jesse, a brevet second lieutenant awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, has found himself a good job as foreman of the nearby lumber mill and quickly sees an opportunity to make some money by acquiring a well-timbered parcel of land whose ownership is in limbo. He’s also renewed his old friendship with mill secretary Serena Barker, who’s distantly related to the Lebruns. Jesse and his brother Abel arrive just in time to stop his cousin Anse and his drunken friends from lynching Serena’s brother. When Jesse is arrested for the murder of the one Lebrun who’s agreed to work with him to solve the original murder, a local lawyer fights to get him released and help him acquire the property he wants. Before Jesse can get on with his job and his pursuit of Serena, though, he still has to catch a killer.

Though this sort-of prequel to Ramsay’s Ike Schwartz series (The Vulture, 2015, etc.) isn’t much of a mystery, it’s memorable for its powerful portrayal of the difficult lives of proud but poorly educated people too set in their ways to change.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4642-0782-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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...

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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