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THE MAN WHO CAME UPTOWN

Using his customary knowing dialogue and stripped-down, soulful prose, Pelecanos skillfully, sensitively works the urban...

Pelecanos (The Martini Shot, 2015, etc.) follows the trails of three nominally free agents drawn together by the matrix of the D.C. jail.

Michael Hudson has been arrested and is awaiting trial for robbery. Phil Ornazian is an investigator who works for Matthew Mirapaul, his old friend and Michael’s lawyer. Anna Kaplan Byrne is the prison librarian who supplies Michael with the novels that make him feel, for as long as he’s reading, that “he was not locked up. He was free.” The prison setting makes it clear who the good guys and the bad guys are. Then Ornazian gets Michael freed by encouraging the man who accused him not to testify, and it’s not so clear anymore. Michael, supported by Doretha Hudson, the mother who speaks plainly of both her disappointment and her hope in him, seems to be making ends meet working as a dishwasher in the District Line, a local restaurant. Ornazian, who runs an occasional sideline with bail bondsman Thaddeus Ward to rob local pimps, gets a lead on a ripe new target named Gustav at the same time he’s working a case of vandalism, robbery, and assault for a client of Mirapaul’s who hasn’t wanted to expose to the authorities his daughter’s folly in advertising on Facebook the party that was crashed by the vandals. Anna finds herself running into Michael at the District Line and, more disquietingly, outside her home. She very much wants Michael to go straight. He wants to go straight himself. But Ornazian wants him to drive the getaway car for his latest hijacking, and then the one after that. How can he possibly stay clean?

Using his customary knowing dialogue and stripped-down, soulful prose, Pelecanos skillfully, sensitively works the urban frontier where the problems and stresses of everyday life cross the line into the sort of criminal behavior that could tempt anyone—anyone at all.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-47982-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE WINNER

Irritatingly trite woman-in-periler from lawyer-turned-novelist Baldacci. Moving away from the White House and the white-shoe Washington law firms of his previous bestsellers (Absolute Power, 1996; Total Control, 1997), Baldacci comes up with LuAnn Tyler, a spunky, impossibly beautiful, white-trash truck stop waitress with a no-good husband and a terminally cute infant daughter in tow. Some months after the birth of Lisa, LuAnn gets a phone call summoning her to a make-shift office in an unrented storefront of the local shopping mall. There, she gets a Faustian offer from a Mr. Jackson, a monomaniacal, cross-dressing manipulator who apparently knows the winning numbers in the national lottery before the numbers are drawn. It seems that LuAnn fits the media profile of what a lottery winner should be—poor, undereducated but proud—and if she's willing to buy the right ticket at the right time and transfer most of her winnings to Jackson, she'll be able to retire in luxury. Jackson fails to inform her, however, that if she refuses his offer, he'll have her killed. Before that can happen, as luck would have it, LuAnn barely escapes death when one of husband Duane's drug deals goes bad. She hops on a first-class Amtrak sleeper to Manhattan with a hired executioner in pursuit. But executioner Charlie, one of Jackson's paid handlers, can't help but hear wedding bells when he sees LuAnn cooing with her daughter. Alas, a winning $100- million lottery drawing complicates things. Jackson spirits LuAnn and Lisa away to Sweden, with Charlie in pursuit. Never fear. Not only will LuAnn escape a series of increasingly violent predicaments, but she'll also outwit Jackson, pay an enormous tax bill to the IRS, and have enough left over to honeymoon in Switzerland. Too preposterous to work as feminine wish-fulfillment, too formulaic to be suspenseful. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52259-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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