Sleek historical mystery glides by on detail, but lacks plot depth.

THE CHRYSALIS

Beautiful lawyer, tricked into defending Nazi loot, seeks to undo past wrongs.

Mara Coyne is up for a partnership if she can win one for a major client. Before it can make a lucrative sale, ritzy auction house Beazley’s needs legal defense to prove that a 16th-century masterpiece, The Chrysalis, wasn’t stolen by the Nazis in 1943. As an added incentive, Mara finds that her contact at the auction house is the dashing Michael, an old college crush. Having spent too many years burning the midnight oil for the Manhattan law firm, she’s easy prey, and she and Michael begin a secret affair while she works with Beazley’s formidable expert, Lillian, to prove the painting’s flawless provenance. But two intersecting storylines—one introducing the painting’s secretly Catholic creator who worked in staunchly Calvinist Holland, the other recreating the wartime Jewish owners—foreshadow Mara’s ultimate discovery that documents have been forged and her newfound love is compromised. Teaming up with the elderly, elegant Lillian, who was also deceived by love 60 years before, she jets to London to uncover the truth. Like the painting, Terrell’s debut is full of lovely detail, from the descriptions of the Dutch landscape to the ’40s fashions of the wealthy Baum family. A theme of hidden faith and passion runs solidly throughout this slim thriller. The painter, Johannes Miereveld, pours his secret faith into the painting, which also reveals a forbidden love affair. The Baums, labeled Jews by the Nazis, had thought themselves Catholic. And Mara finds herself recalling her beloved Irish Catholic grandmother as she learns about betrayal and finds her moral core. But the plot is thinner than new varnish. The author telegraphs Michael’s duplicity from the start and the resolution is too quickly tied up through brief or off-stage meetings, and a final letter that seeks to weave all the historical strands together.

Sleek historical mystery glides by on detail, but lacks plot depth.

Pub Date: May 15, 2007

ISBN: 0-345-49466-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 45

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more