A fulfilling mystery with impressive plot intricacies.

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ISABEL

In La Barre’s (Stranger in Vienna, 1995) latest novel, a young girl becomes entwined in secrets that resurface upon a young woman’s return to a small town.

Young Melinda MacDougall befriends Wilhelmina Kingsley, the old woman who lives in the grand house across the street. She spends afternoons listening to Ms. Kingsley talk of Isabel Benoit Lockwood, her orphaned niece. Isabel, raised by Wilhelmina, was once married to Forrest Lockwood, the son of powerful and scrupulous Owen Lockwood, owner of Lockwood Machine in Dexter, Mass. The loss of her firstborn son and husband drove Isabel to Rome to mend, while others blamed her for Forrest’s presumed suicide and the tragic death of baby Sam. Upon Wilhelmina’s death, Isabel returns with her cross-eyed adopted Italian son, Carlo, to claim her inheritance—the Kingsley estate. Melinda, who takes expensive piano lessons from Isabel and plays with Carlo, is captivated by the woman; she unknowingly ends up tangled in Isabel’s money troubles and her web of men. Among these compelling, well-developed characters are Mr. Farinelli, an Italian-American involved in real estate, who loves Isabel and tries to protect her; Mr. Zanotti, a sinister Italian man whose true connection to Isabel and Carlo is a mystery; and former father-in-law Owen, who hopes to unearth a secret that will get rid of Isabel once and for all, despite his unsavory sexual feelings for her. La Barre does well by providing backstory through Wilhelmina’s account before moving on to Melinda’s experiences with Isabel and Carlo. The lack of chapter breaks speeds the story along, adding to the gripping nature of this thriller. The characters are multifaceted, yet their motivations are never cut and dried. La Barre’s use of foreshadowing is subtle enough to build suspense, keeping the twists and turns of the plot believable but unexpected.

A fulfilling mystery with impressive plot intricacies.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-1466301634

Page Count: 190

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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If you're new to Penny's world, this would be a great place to jump in. Then go back and start the series from the beginning.

ALL THE DEVILS ARE HERE

Gamache goes to Paris.

Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec has had an eventful time in Penny's last few books, taking over as Chief Superintendent, uncovering corruption at the highest levels, facing public scorn, and finally ending up back where he started, as head of the homicide division. Penny has always been a master of pacing on a serieswide level, moving between the overarching corruption story and more local mysteries and also occasionally taking a break from Three Pines, the beloved, unmappable Quebec village that is the main setting. This time around, Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie, a retired librarian, are spending time in Paris, where both of their children now live, waiting for their daughter, Annie, to give birth to her first child with husband Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Gamache's former second-in-command. Gamache takes the opportunity to visit the Rodin Museum with his godfather, billionaire Stephen Horowitz, who then joins the extended Gamache clan for dinner—only to be hit by a car and almost killed as they leave the restaurant. Gamache is convinced it was no accident—an impression reinforced the next morning when he and Reine-Marie go to Stephen's apartment and find the place has been ransacked and there's a dead body behind the sofa. Soon the whole family is involved in the investigation, and everyone has a part to play, from Reine-Marie, who visits the Archives nationales, to son Daniel, a venture capitalist who moved to Paris to escape his father's shadow. Gamache calls on an old friend, the head of the Paris police force, but can he be trusted? As always, Penny's mystery is meticulously constructed and reveals hard truths about the hidden workings of the world—as well as the workings of the Gamache family. But there's plenty of local color, too, with a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower to escape surveillance and a luxurious suite at the Hotel George V for good measure.

If you're new to Penny's world, this would be a great place to jump in. Then go back and start the series from the beginning.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-25-014523-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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