KING SUCKERMAN

A routine drug deal goes bad on the eve of Washington's bicentennial festivities, decimating Pelecanos's big, juicy cast. One minute, big-talking dealer Eddie Marchetti and his executive assistant, Clarence Tate, are setting up a peaceful buy for visiting ex-con Wilton Cooper and his buddies; the next minute, Dimitri Karras and Marcus Clay, who've come to score some dope, have slightly overreacted to an insulting remark Eddie made to his stoned-out girlfriend Vivian Lee. The next thing you know, Dimitri and Marcus are backing out the door with Vivian and with $20,000 that isn't theirs. Eddie, who calls himself "Eddie Spags" and tries to talk like Superfly, is too gutless to do anything but goggle. But Cooper swings into action as swiftly as Dimitri and Marcus shut down his deal in the first place. Backed up by half-wit brothers Ronald and Russell Thomas and by Bobby Roy Clagget, a kid who'd rather shoot than get involved in a lot of talking, Cooper tracks his prey to their homes (a memorable high-wire scene between Cooper, polite as pie, and Dimitri's mother) and places of business (a predictable shoot-up at Marcus's record store). It's all for the money, of course—only it isn't: Dimitri and Marcus, who know they've made a big mistake, would love to find a safe way to offload the loot, and imperturbable Cooper isn't nearly as interested in recovering the coin—he insists he's only a broker on Eddie's behalf—as in exterminating the upstarts. Pelecanos keeps up the tension with constant collisions over race, sex, and what passes for honor, as the characters hurtle toward a climactic Fourth of July confrontation that reads like a downscale urban remake of The Wild Bunch. Now that he's gotten rid of the outsized heroes of The Big Blowdown (1996), Pelecanos can concentrate on what he does best: showing lowlifes at work, bragging, sweating, killing. As Eddie Spags would say, this book smokes.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 1997

ISBN: 0-316-69590-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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