Pelecanos (Shame the Devil, 2000, etc.) keeps the relations between his unlikely detective pair, the legion of thugs and...



Pelecanos’s eighth novel packs his niftiest premise yet: Two ex-D.C. cops, one turned p.i. and the other sidelined after shooting a brother officer, join forces to clear the victim’s name.

Outraged at the official account of the incident—that Officer Terry Quinn fired on Officer Christopher Wilson when Wilson, holding his piece on a man suspected of no more heinous crime than public urination, turned the gun on Quinn—Wilson’s mother has hired African-American shamus Derek Strange to find out what really went down on the dark street where her son died. It’s hard to find anything to contradict the official story. Quinn, his partner, Eugene Franklin, and Wilson’s would-be victim, restaurant worker Ricky Kane, all tell the same story: Wilson was in plain clothes, never identified himself as a cop, and seemed to go kill-crazy when the uniforms arrived on the scene. And Quinn, stung by Strange’s accusation that he wouldn’t have shot a white man holding a gun on a black man, confounds Strange still further by asking to ride along with him on his investigation. As they’re making the rounds of Pelecanos’s trademark Washington fleshpots, from seedy gentlemen’s clubs to scarred crack houses, an even darker plot is brewing. Earl Boone and his son Ray, a pair of cracker drug mules who’d be too dumb to breathe if they weren’t stoked on their own product, suddenly take it upon themselves to cut through the layers of bureaucracy surrounding their operation, preparing for a memorable confrontation with their biggest client, street supplier Cherokee Coleman, and his well-armed goons.

Pelecanos (Shame the Devil, 2000, etc.) keeps the relations between his unlikely detective pair, the legion of thugs and users that crowd their every move, and the racial cloud over the Nation’s Capital miraculously clear. The result—an East Coast L.A. Confidential without the mannered prose—looks like a breakout at last for its talented author.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2001

ISBN: 0-316-69526-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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