Soft-spoken, smart and satisfying.

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THE OXFORD MURDERS

An elegant, fashionable, award-winning novel mixes murder with modern mathematical theory.

A nameless, 22-year-old Argentinean mathematician plays Dr. Watson to mathematical genius Arthur Seldom’s Sherlock Holmes in contemporary Oxford, England. Martínez (Regarding Roderer, 1994, etc.), a mathematical scientist himself, takes an offbeat approach to the place and the killings, adding intellectual spin to his renderings of both. Each of the “imperceptible murders” that takes place involves an acquaintance of Seldom or else occurs in close proximity to him, and each is preceded by a message and a symbol taken from the Pythagorean doctrine. The unnamed narrator—whose landlady, Mrs Eagleton, is victim number one, her symbol a circle—helps Seldom investigate the mysteries, while moving through well known locations such as Blenheim Palace and the Radcliffe Hospital, which here take on foreign, vaguely surreal and sinister aspects. Female interest is supplied by a lusty, tennis-playing nurse and Mrs. Eagleton’s miserable but alluring granddaughter Beth, with Martínez smoothly melding the intrigue and sex with introductions to loftier intellectual concepts such as Fermat’s Last Theorem. A second death takes place in the hospital and the third, spectacularly, at an outdoor concert. Bizarrely, all three victims seem to have been living on borrowed time. But the pattern of violence changes, culminating in a macabre bus crash that kills ten Down Syndrome children, and seems to have been engineered by the bus’s driver, now dead himself, in order to generate lung transplant material for his dying daughter. Was he the serial killer, or is it possible there were two murderers and some nifty connective footwork supplied by a third party? The narrator is left to muse on what constitutes the perfect crime, and also to contemplate his own random influence on events in a story that fuses murder, numbers, beautiful minds, sects and old mysteries.

Soft-spoken, smart and satisfying.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2005

ISBN: 1-59692-150-1

Page Count: 200

Publisher: MacAdam/Cage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2005

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

THINGS IN JARS

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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