On the other hand, Dolan has provided a seven-course banquet for readers with a taste for deliriously overplotted pulp with...

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BAD THINGS HAPPEN

Dolan’s debut thriller begins simply enough, with two men burying a third in a forested section of Ann Arbor’s Marshall Park. From there, it gets ever more loopy, far-fetched and baroque.

Rolling stone David Loogan (not his real name) has been working as an editor for the literary magazine Gray Streets. He has a good relationship with his boss, Tom Kristoll, and an even better relationship with his boss’s wife. But he’s a secretive man who keeps to himself, and that doesn’t change when Tom asks him to help dispose of a body. Michael Beccanti was an ex-con with a long history of break-ins who came to his office to rob him, Tom explains; he bashed the intruder in self-defense. It’s not long before David discovers that Tom’s story is a tissue of lies, but by then the body is resting in Ann Arbor’s good green earth, followed shortly by the remains of Tom, who allegedly took a header out his office window. Police detective Elizabeth Waishkey, not fooled by the suicide angle, identifies the obvious suspect in Tom’s murder just in time to hear that he’s died as well, apparently by his own hand. Though David and Elizabeth are clearly attracted to one another, their investigations take them in separate directions, a divergence that becomes even more pronounced when a retired New York cop turns up with a story about David’s past that sends his quarry packing. Although the resulting tale fits Tom’s definition of Gray Streets fiction—“Plans go wrong, bad things happen, people die”—Elizabeth keeps telling David that “this isn’t a story in Gray Streets,” and she’s right. There are far too many violent deaths, plot twists, ghostwriters, red herrings, guilty secrets, false theories, unconnected murderers, come-from-nowhere revelations and 11th-hour switcheroos for any self-respecting literary journal.

On the other hand, Dolan has provided a seven-course banquet for readers with a taste for deliriously overplotted pulp with just enough polish to keep them from feeling guilty.

Pub Date: July 23, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-15563-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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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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Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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