The other stories all strike sparks as reminiscences of troubled youth recalled from the perspective of adult experience—or...

THE MARTINI SHOT

Seven stories and a novella from the undisputed king of D.C. noir.

Pelecanos, who made his mark as a guide to the lower depths of the nation’s capital and a writer/producer of the acclaimed TV series The Wire, has been as resourceful and inventive as his heroes, and this collection showcases his versatility. In the first and best of the stories, “The Confidential Informant,” a street-wise kid’s scheme to claim a $1,000 reward, set forth in scorching, slangy first-person, backfires fatally. “Chosen” chronicles the very mixed fortunes of an adoptive family whose youngest child is Spero Lucas (The Double, 2013, etc.). “String Music” toggles back and forth between Tonio Harris, who's struggling to survive against an enemy he impulsively insulted, and Sgt. Peters, who’s struggling just as hard to protect him. “When You’re Hungry” shows a kid who escaped an impoverished background to become a crack insurance investigator sent to Brazil, where an alleged murder victim has been sighted, that there’s always somebody hungrier than him. A kid who’s dealing acquiesces in his childhood friend’s murder but still feels bad for the friend’s mother in “Miss Mary’s Room.” The narrator of “Plastic Paddy” recalls the dangers and dead ends he encountered in smoking dope with a faux-Irish friend destined for a “long fall.” In “The Dead Their Eyes Implore Us,” a young man who works under Pelecanos regular Nick Stefanos avenges a friend who tried to organize his fellow hotel employees, then wonders whether another employee who saw him on the scene will turn him in. The only real disappointment is the title novella, in which a TV writer/producer who sounds a lot like the author tracks down the men who killed his gaffer, an amiable doper, and sets them up for condign justice.

The other stories all strike sparks as reminiscences of troubled youth recalled from the perspective of adult experience—or from beyond the grave.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-28437-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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