IDENTITY

Thoft (Loyalty, 2013) doesn’t hold back on her gutsy detective’s flaws or on irrelevant side trips. But Fina’s second outing...

A free-wheeling Boston private eye learns the unintended consequences of charitable donations.

Fina Ludlow lives on diet soda and junk, wins no prizes for housekeeping, juggles two part-time lovers, has an iffy relationship with the truth and prefers the streets to the conference room of her family’s prestigious law firm. Her father doesn’t approve of her, but he does find her talents useful, especially when she does some sleuthing for a client who’s suing Heritage Cryobank to learn the identity of her daughter’s sperm donor. Fina spares no effort (not all of it strictly legal) to out the father, Hank Reardon, a high-tech billionaire with a son by his first marriage, a daughter by his second and the offspring of some impulsive contributions to Heritage shortly after his college graduation. Although he offers to do right by his recently discovered issue, someone’s unhappy enough to bludgeon him to death in the parking lot of his company. When Michael Reardon hires Fina to find out who killed his father, she has to determine why two of his cryokids have phony alibis, how angry Hank’s partner was about being left out of a lucrative waterfront deal, why Hank’s former wife and current wife have dueling charities in the Boston area, and why, just before his death, Hank made several phone calls to the director of Heritage. In spite of warnings that grow increasingly physical, Fina won’t give up in a whodunit that maddeningly builds up momentum and then jams on the brakes to describe the hair and eye color of even minor characters or Fina’s snack of choice.

Thoft (Loyalty, 2013) doesn’t hold back on her gutsy detective’s flaws or on irrelevant side trips. But Fina’s second outing is a mostly enjoyable roller-coaster tour of the rapidly changing world of assisted reproduction.

Pub Date: June 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-16213-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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

BADLANDS

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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