A refreshingly original reinvention of artistic history.

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AN ACCIDENTAL CORPSE

A work of historical fiction reimagines the death of iconic painter Jackson Pollock as a murder mystery.

Juanita Diaz and her husband, Brian Fitzgerald, are both New York City police officers, and after 13 years of marriage, they’re long overdue for a vacation. They decide to take a respite with their son, TJ, to East Hampton, Long Island, a posh area known as a redoubt for successful artists and their dealers. In fact, it’s home to Pollock, notorious in the area for his reckless, alcohol-fueled driving. One evening, Juanita and Brian are driving home from dinner, and another car abruptly darts across their path and crashes. They quickly realize it’s Pollock’s Oldsmobile Rocket 88 turned upside down—he is obviously dead, and a female passenger precariously hangs on to life. Then they notice another female passenger in the back seat, sadly lifeless. At first glance, it all seems like a tragic accident, if predictable given Pollock’s reputation. But the medical examiner reports that the lifeless passenger, Edith Metzger, died before the car crashed from asphyxiation, likely caused by strangulation. The other passenger is Ruth Kligman, Edith’s roommate in New York City. Harrison (An Exquisite Corpse, 2016) expertly unravels Pollock’s sordid love life. He carried on a poorly concealed affair with Kligman, a source of humiliation for Pollock’s wife, the artist Lee Krasner. Juanita and Brian take a special interest in the case, which is complicated by Kligman being uncommunicative and a surfeit of plausible suspects, including Krasner, who not only had reasons to harbor contempt for Pollock, but a financial incentive as well: She is his only heir. The author conjures a dark whodunit out of a delightfully simple revision of history: In 1956, Pollock in fact died in a drunk-driving accident. She also paints an intriguing picture of the art world in the ’50s, filled with brilliantly creative but equally dysfunctional (and morally questionable) lovers of beauty. But the prose, especially the dialogue, suffers from an antiseptic, clichéd quality: “Kligman can confirm that when she comes to. If she comes to, that is.”

A refreshingly original reinvention of artistic history. 

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947936-05-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunemere Books

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

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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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