Elaborate but worth the effort. Think Jo Nesbø by way of Haruki Murakami, and with a most satisfying payoff.

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SIX FOUR

A bestselling Japanese crime novelist makes his American debut with a pensive but overlong whodunit that sheds light on power relations in his native country.

It's 1989, the final year of Emperor Hirohito’s reign, a time of portent, and a young girl has gone missing. A kidnapper calls, the police flail about, and parents and child never reunite. Time goes by, and now, in 2003, Yoshinobu Mikami is still thinking about the case, for, in a plot convenience that demands ample suspension of disbelief, his own daughter has gone missing. As Yokoyama’s grim tale opens, Mikami and his wife are in the morgue, hoping against hope that the teenager lying on the table is not their daughter. “This wasn’t their first time,” writes Yokoyama, “in the last three months they had already viewed two bodies of Ayumi’s age.” Mikami is able to take a synoptic view because he had been an investigator in the earlier case, and now, reviewing the files, he sees something he had not noticed before. It’s not really his place to be poking around, though, since he has been transferred to the press relations office of the police department, a job that he fears is a subtle, politically motivated demotion and a move that has soured any enthusiasm he had for being a cop. The jaded investigator is an old trope in crime fiction, but Yokoyama steals a page from Stieg Larsson by using the mystery to probe the ways the powers that be work in an apparently orderly society that masks a great undercurrent of evil and wrongdoing, much of it committed by the powerful and well-connected. So it is in this story, which takes leisurely twists into the well-kept offices of Japan’s elite while providing a kind of informal sociological treatise on crime and punishment in Japanese society, to say nothing of an inside view of the police and their testy relationship with the media.

Elaborate but worth the effort. Think Jo Nesbø by way of Haruki Murakami, and with a most satisfying payoff.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-26551-9

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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