A moody and absorbing detective story.



A high-profile treasure hunt monopolizes headlines as a serial killer roams the London streets in Chancellor’s (The Forgotten Echo, 2012, etc.) thriller.

Callum Relph, a wealthy American expatriate in England, posts a YouTube video of himself burying what he claims is the legendary sword Excalibur. To find it, citizens must decipher clues using the ExcaliburQuest app, or they could happen upon one of seven golden tickets hidden around the country, each worth £500,000. If the puzzle remains unsolved in five days, the seven ticket holders will be brought to the area where the sword’s hidden and compete to dig it up. Meanwhile, Detective Chief Inspector Frank Moke is working a murder case in which the killer severed the victim’s thumbs—the same M.O. as a serial killer called “Scissorman,” who hasn’t been active in nearly 20 years. Back then, Moke arrested a man who went to prison for the murders of six girls, although the high court subsequently acquitted him on appeal, due to questionable evidence. The detective gets help in the present-day case from rookie police officer Morgan Luttrell, and she and Moke soon determine that the killer’s latest murder may have been inspired by ongoing media coverage of the Excalibur game. Despite its length, Chancellor’s tale maintains a steady pace throughout. The characters’ backstories gradually unfold in snippets, rather than as prolonged exposition. Various mysteries about specific characters develop over the course of the story; the public knows little about Relph, Luttrell keeps a secret from Moke, and it’s revealed that George Eagle, a profiler who worked the older case, later had “some kind of breakdown.” Intermittent scenes from the killer’s perspective become more unnerving in the novel’s latter half, when he’s holding someone captive for a frighteningly unclear purpose. This is Chancellor’s first adult thriller (he previously wrote children’s books) and although it’s occasionally violent, it more often relies on atmosphere. A description of an old crime scene, for instance, merely hints at earlier savagery: “The dark patch of dried blood in the middle of the carpet was still covered by a sheet of plastic.”

A moody and absorbing detective story.

Pub Date: June 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-9996319-0-1

Page Count: 704

Publisher: One Line Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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