THE SYLVAN PATH

A JOURNEY THROUGH AMERICA'S FORESTS

Woodland interludes—quick and bright, dazzling amid the bosky gloom—from a former forest-service ranger (Spirits of the Wild: The World's Great Nature Tales, 1996). Ferguson grew up around trees: papaws and osage orange, tamarack, lodgepole, and maple. He climbed their trunks, perched for hours on their limbs, rapt in their leafy glory. But by his mid-30s, the woods had retreated from his life. Wanting to recapture their myth-giving power, he goes in search of ancient forests. His first stop is Maine, where he helps build a Penobscot wigwam out of paper birch, tramps through forests carpeted with club moss and twinflower, rubs shoulders with the inmates of a fancy back-of-beyond fishing camp, and communes with the ghosts of Robert Frost and Thomas Cole. Pointing south, he slips into the wooded precincts of Tennessee, all magnolia, tulip, and sweet gum, and makes the acquaintance of moonshiners and marijuana growers. Over in southern Indiana, his native turf, he immerses himself once again in the familiar oaks and maples, rues the plowing of hedgerows to make way for condominiums, then heads north to Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where he listens to loggers recollecting the felling of the great northern coniferous forest. He explores the dark, sweet stands of evergreen in Minnesota, and watches wolves running through a spruce forest. He stops in tree-poor North Dakota, then goes home to Montana, its sparse beauty a far cry from the sight of autumn in New England or spring coming to the forests along the Blue Ridge mountains. Nonetheless, Ferguson is happy there. People as well as trees fill this record of his journey: guides and trappers, urban refugees, and some plain old locals, folks who carry with them a ``precious, enviable sense of place.'' Ferguson emerges a new man, pleased to know that sap still runs in his veins. Throughout, the writing is so powerful that it's hard not to share the author's delight to be back in the woods.

Pub Date: March 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-312-15129-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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