Deftly probes a serial-killer case and the equally puzzling lives of a troubled couple.

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SEEING RED

In this debut thriller, a woman still tormented by a brutal attack years ago endures a volatile marriage and the unnerving feeling that someone’s stalking her.

Seraphina Swift’s six-year marriage is crumbling. Though she and her husband, Harper, have a baby girl, Sky, there’s definite hostility between the two. This is partly due to Seraphina’s belief that a shadowy figure is watching and following her. With no actual proof, Harper writes it off as paranoia. She’s further plagued by night terrors, stemming from her rape while at Harvard; she blacked out that night and can remember only pieces of it, including evidently killing her assailant with a broken bottle. Soon after her attack, a body washed ashore in Boston, an unsolved murder Seraphina surmises is connected to her assault. In present day, Harper, an investigator with the district attorney’s office, is working the murder of Brooke Beck, who had apparently been looking into the media-dubbed Renaissance Killer from Boston. Seraphina, meanwhile, thinks Harper’s having an affair and is shocked when he becomes a suspect in another murder. Certain her pursuer is behind it, Seraphina hones her strength and instincts so she can confront her fears—with fists and a gun. Brod’s novel is decidedly gloomy: both Seraphina and Harper are initially unlikable, each blaming the other for their fractured relationship. But details of her assault, as well as two unnerving pasts (involving dubious parents), should earn them readers’ empathy. They’re likewise as gripping as the ongoing investigation: it’s unclear whether Seraphina’s stalker is real or if Harper’s truly capable of murder. This is reflected in Brod’s vivid descriptions, particularly the passages revealing Seraphina’s perspective, which could reflect either despair or delusion: “I triple lock the doors and go through my ritual, closing the shades, locking out the monsters that live mostly in my mind.” Suitably, the largely resolved ending leaves quite a few questions unanswered.

Deftly probes a serial-killer case and the equally puzzling lives of a troubled couple.

Pub Date: May 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5246-9176-9

Page Count: 204

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2017

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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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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