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

THE RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES

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.

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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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