This rich fusion of crime and fantasy should enchant readers.

WRATH OF THE FURY BLADE

A killer targets high-ranking victims in a society of elves obsessed with genetic purity.

On the world of Ados, in the elven city of Tenyl, Constable Inspector Reva Lunaria tries to enjoy her day off. She’s summoned, however, to the office of First Constable Aescel for assignment to an important case. First Magistrate Lavalé fey Avecath has been murdered, cleaved clean in half one night in his study. With her longtime partner recently transferred, veteran Reva must work with the inexperienced Ansee Carya, who as a Seeker can investigate any magic used at the crime scene. In the First Magistrate’s study, the two encounter Green Cloaks—or the Sucra—who act as King Aeonis’ secret police. Inquisitor Ailan Malvaceä orders that all documents be collected from the study, which infuriates Reva. In turn, she graciously allows the Sucra to witness a Speaking, during which the corpse is magically induced to offer verbal clues about the murder. In this way, the investigators learn that a black blade committed the deed. At the scene of a second killing—this time Lady Tala Ochroma, the king’s treasurer, is the victim—a healer refuses to save the life of a collaterally injured halpbloed (half-blood). Ansee loses his temper and strikes the elf, revealing the extent to which bigotry divides the citizens of Tenyl. In this marriage of fantasy and procedural thriller, the team of Habiger and Kissee (Unremarkable, 2018) gives fans of both genres a master class in worldbuilding. Everything from idioms (“But tread carefully, Inspector. You are on a narrow branch here”) to fascist racial doctrines mesh in a narrative that pulses with innovation on every page. While much of the emotional heft comes in comparing King Aeonis’ purity laws to those wielded by the Nazis, personal demons also haunt the characters in this series opener. Reva finds herself addicted to the stimulant Wake, and the halpbloed Cedres Vanda desperately wants to reunite with his family despite his wife’s disgust for him. A wider conspiracy puts the kingdom at risk, and the charming, flawed protagonists prove themselves a winning combo worth visiting again.

This rich fusion of crime and fantasy should enchant readers.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-932926-61-3

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Shadow Dragon Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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