Owen uses his reflective, self-destructive hero to illuminate both the racial problems of his hometown and the ongoing death...

GRACE

Proof positive that despite the title of police reporter Willie Black’s fifth appearance (The Bottom, 2015, etc.), things can indeed get worse for both the city of Richmond and its daily newspaper.

No wonder Belman “Shorty” Cole, the paper’s own security guard, is angry enough to come to work with a gun he uses to threaten Willie, temporary publisher Rita Dominick, and whomever else is within shouting and shooting distance. Shorty’s 10-year-old nephew, a good kid named Artesian Cole, has gone missing; the police don’t seem to care; and his uncle is sure the boy's dead. Soon enough the discovery of Artesian’s body proves Shorty to be right, and Police Chief L.D. Jones rouses himself enough to arrest Sam McNish, who ran Children of God, an after-school program that had given Artesian some hope of pulling himself out of the city’s East End. The evidence against McNish is pretty much limited to the fact that he was the last person to see the boy alive, supplemented by a steady drip of insinuations about his inappropriate behavior toward his charges dispensed by teacher’s aide Stella Barnes, who turns out to be his spiteful ex-girlfriend. Willie’s inquiries suggesting that Artesian may be only the latest in a series of disappearances of young black males stretching back 20 years are suddenly eclipsed by the discovery of an even more recent victim, Pulitzer Prize–winning ex–city council member James N. Alderman, whose distinguished career of mentorship for people like Sam McNish ends when he’s tortured to death. This second murder clarifies things for Willie, but in ways that don’t sit at all well with Rita Dominick, and the race is on between his attempts to gather new evidence and her attempts to shut him down for good.

Owen uses his reflective, self-destructive hero to illuminate both the racial problems of his hometown and the ongoing death of the newspaper he loves, even though it doesn’t love him back.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2016

ISBN: 9781579624347

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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