A largely satisfying second volume that brings new plot threads to the Element series.

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ELEMENT OF DANGER

From the Element Mysteries series , Vol. 2

Jenny O’Rourke continues her investigation into her family’s occult connections in this, the second volume of the Element series of mysteries.

A few months after her father was arrested along with the other leaders of his secret society—dubbed “the Punishers” by the media—O’Rourke hopes the cult’s crimes are history. Then she sees on the news that her friend Katie Dorcy has been found dead in the creek behind Red Rock Farm. It is the same farm where Jenny grew up and where the order conducted its deadly rituals. Jenny is still traumatized by her own near fatal run-in with the order, and the cult’s infamy has made a tourist attraction of her tiny hometown of Brandtville, Pennsylvania, now known as “Bloody Brandtville.” Jenny can’t help but blame herself for Katie’s death, and she and her boyfriend, Ryan Brandt (whose father was also one of the Punishers) set to work investigating it. A symbol found on Katie’s body suggests that one of the Punishers is still at large and may be trying to reestablish the order. When Jenny runs into a figure from her past, an opportunity presents itself: Can she discover the truth about what happened to Katie by joining the order herself? In this second volume of the Element trilogy, Slawecki writes with urgency and imagination, speeding the plot along between sinister locations and tense interactions. The primary flaw, such as it is, is that the characters tend to speak in the melodramatic vernacular of reality TV contestants. (Even the narration sometimes slips into this language. When Jenny learns that Katie’s husband suspects that she was having an affair, she thinks, “Whoa! Mind blown. She never mentioned any of this to me.”) While the informality is sometimes a mood-killer, it is by no means a book-ruiner, and the story is intricate enough to keep the reader invested. Both the author and Jenny take the threats seriously enough to prevent the more contrived elements of the plot from pushing the book into the realm of camp. Fans of The Da Vinci Code or True Detective will enjoy this maximalist mix of crime, conspiracy, and the occult.

A largely satisfying second volume that brings new plot threads to the Element series.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73460-043-8

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Graylyn Press

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2020

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One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

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LONG RANGE

Once again, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett gets mixed up in a killing whose principal suspect is his old friend Nate Romanowski, whose attempts to live off the grid keep breaking down in a series of felony charges.

If Judge Hewitt hadn’t bent over to pick up a spoon that had fallen from his dinner table, the sniper set up nearly a mile from his house in the gated community of the Eagle Mountain Club would have ended his life. As it was, the victim was Sue Hewitt, leaving the judge alive and free to rail and threaten anyone he suspected of the shooting. Incoming Twelve Sleep County Sheriff Brendan Kapelow’s interest in using the case to promote his political ambitions and the judge’s inability to see further than his nose make them the perfect targets for a frame-up of Nate, who just wants to be left alone in the middle of nowhere to train his falcons and help his bride, Liv Brannon, raise their baby, Kestrel. Nor are the sniper, the sheriff, and the judge Nate’s only enemies. Orlando Panfile has been sent to Wyoming by the Sinaloan drug cartel to avenge the deaths of the four assassins whose careers Nate and Joe ended last time out (Wolf Pack, 2019). So it’s up to Joe, with some timely data from his librarian wife, Marybeth, to hire a lawyer for Nate, make sure he doesn’t bust out of jail before his trial, identify the real sniper, who continues to take an active role in the proceedings, and somehow protect him from a killer who regards Nate’s arrest as an unwelcome complication. That’s quite a tall order for someone who can’t shoot straight, who keeps wrecking his state-issued vehicles, and whose appalling mother-in-law, Missy Vankeuren Hand, has returned from her latest European jaunt to suck up all the oxygen in Twelve Sleep County to hustle some illegal drugs for her cancer-stricken sixth husband. But fans of this outstanding series will know better than to place their money against Joe.

One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53823-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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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