A fast-paced blast from the past…and (who knows?) maybe the immediate future as well.

Rankin fans ready for a break from Inspector John Rebus’ inimitably dour Edinburgh (In a House of Lies, 2019, etc.) will welcome this reprinting of a state-of-the-art high-tech international thriller from 1990.

As the U.S. prepares to pull all its troops from Europe in a prophetic "America First" move, two apparently unrelated incidents provoke panic among the Brits who face abandonment by their partners in the historic special relationship. One is the period of 3 minutes and 40 seconds during which the satellite Zephyr goes dark, losing all contact with its monitors on the ground. Although it soon returns from the blackness, controller Paul Vincent is deeply shaken by the interruption. He shares his fears with fellow monitor Martin Hepton, and soon both of them are up to their floppy drives in danger. The other problem is more serious from the get-go: The space shuttle Argos crashes to Earth in the middle of a heretofore routine flight, killing all five members of the American crew and leaving only Maj. Michael Dreyfuss, the sole British participant, alive. Like Vincent, Dreyfuss instantly senses that the failure of the craft on which he’s hitched a ride is only the tip of a much larger iceberg. And as subsequent events will quickly show, the two incidents are indeed only the most obvious nodes of an international—or, more precisely, post-national—web of intrigue. Picking out the leading malefactors from a cast that includes military officers, career diplomats, agents of the American and British secret services, and the odd professional assassin who all look equally untrustworthy is less rewarding than uncovering the deep-laid and remarkably simple plan behind all the shenanigans. A bonus in this new edition is Rankin’s refreshingly candid Introduction, which emphasizes the vicissitudes of his early career in a way that will either inspire wannabe writers or lead them to despair.

A fast-paced blast from the past…and (who knows?) maybe the immediate future as well.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49792-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


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

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 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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