The audience most likely to enjoy the whole enterprise consists of those willing to overlook the claims that Holmes had any...



Seventeen stories, originally published between 1837 and 1913, test the sweeping assertion by editor Davis (More Deadly Than the Male, 2019, etc.) that the period constituted “the mystery story’s first golden age.”

The results are less than consistently convincing. The most successful detective in the earliest tale, Williams Evans Burton’s windy, plodding “The Secret Cell,” is the kidnapped heiress’s dog. Scotland Yard’s pursuit of horse thief Tally-Ho Thompson in Charles Dickens’ “The Detective Police” is much more confidently presented but still forgettable. The excerpts from novels by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Charles Felix, and Emile Gaboriau are nothing more than efficient ways of allowing fans to skip the books from which they’re taken, and reprinting the climactic chapter from Gaston Leroux’s The Mystery of the Yellow Room provides major spoilers for one of the seminal locked-room novels. Leslie Klinger’s well-documented introductory essay notes that Arthur Conan Doyle himself acknowledged few forbears and that those he did note, Edgar Allan Poe (whose widely reprinted “The Mystery of Marie Rogêt” makes still another appearance here) and Gaboriau, did not come off well. Doyle’s gifts for economical exposition, epigrammatic dialogue, and solutions that were ingenious without seeming labored set him far above most of his rivals. Of the entrants here, top prizes go to the derelict police officer’s dying confession of his most signal failure in Wilkie Collins’ “Mr. Policeman and the Cook,” the death of one sister and the disappearance of another solved by the determined Lady Molly of Scotland Yard in Baroness Orczy’s “The Ninescore Mystery,” The Thinking Machine’s brisk investigation into the death of a woman soon after she demanded to have her finger cut off in Jacques Futrelle’s “The Superfluous Finger,” and the bright debuts in the careers of blandly efficient private investigator Martin Hewitt (“The Lenton Croft Robberies”) and blind consulting detective Max Carrados (“The Coin of Dionysus”).

The audience most likely to enjoy the whole enterprise consists of those willing to overlook the claims that Holmes had any truly successful rivals and that his career coincided with a golden age. Bronze, maybe.

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64313-071-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pegasus Crime

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.


Murder and mayhem plague a film set on a secluded island off the coast of Delaware in Little’s (Dear Daughter, 2015, etc.) sophomore thriller.

When film editor Marissa Dahl takes a job on a new film directed by the talented but temperamental Tony Rees, she’s not given a script and must sign a mile-long nondisclosure agreement. It’s not ideal, but she needs the work. Escorted by an attractive ex–Navy SEAL named Isaiah, Marissa arrives on Kickout Island to find a bustling set, headquartered at a beautiful hotel, that is cloaked in secrecy and beset with dysfunction. Once Marissa gets down to work, she realizes that picking up the slack from the previous editor, who was fired for unknown reasons, won’t be smooth sailing and that the movie is based on the real-life unsolved murder of aspiring actress Caitlyn Kelly 25 years ago on that very island. Most folks assume that an eccentric ferry captain named Billy Lyle, a friend of Caitlyn’s, was the killer, but there was never enough evidence to convict. A few people, however, think he may be innocent. Marissa sets out to discover what really happened to Caitlyn with the help of Isaiah and two intrepid, tech-savvy 13-year-olds—Grace Portillo and Suzy Koh, whose parents work for the hotel. What she finds is a dead body and a whole lot of trouble. Readers fascinated with the behind-the-scenes machinations of a movie set will be enthralled, plus there’s a frisson of romantic tension between Isaiah and Marissa, and the island setting lends some spooky atmosphere. Snippets from Grace and Suzy’s true-crime podcast, Dead Ringer, are also sprinkled throughout. Though a killer on the loose adds a fair bit of urgency in the second half, the main focus is on Little’s singular narrator. Marissa relates to the world primarily through film and considers herself anything but typical: “It’s possible I’ve spent so much time watching movies that the language of film has infiltrated some primal, necessary part of my brain. I catch myself processing my own emotions in scenes, in shots, in dialogue.”

A quirky and distinctive heroine headlines this fun and fast-paced thriller loaded with cinematic flourishes.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-670-01639-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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