Thoft’s first effort provides a competent storyline that, while it fails to break new ground, promises to improve over time.

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LOYALTY

Thoft’s debut novel introduces a new female private investigator operating out of Boston who often rebels against her wealthy, overbearing and successful family.

Josefina “Fina” Ludlow works as a PI for the family law firm, which specializes in medical malpractice. Her father, Carl, the firm’s top lawyer and family patriarch, is both self-consciously stylish and disapproving of his only daughter, especially since Fina flunked out of law school. Her three brother—Rand, Scott and Matthew—are all lawyers who work alongside their dad in the family firm. When Rand’s wife, Melanie, doesn’t return home one day, Fina and her family are plunged into an investigation and public relations nightmare that ends up involving a normally discreet call-girl service, a gaudy and overbearing female investigator with the Boston police, and Fina’s niece, Melanie’s and Rand’s daughter, Haley, a beautiful but troubled kid whose parents have been too busy fighting with one another to pay attention to her needs. In Fina, Thoft crafts a not particularly original female investigator: She’s beautiful, she can fight, she has sex with lots of good-looking men, she wolfs down junk food, often employs poor judgment and bucks the establishment. Although Fina has the occasional astute turn of phrase, many of her techniques read like they are straight out of a private investigator’s manual, and most of the action fails to ring true. Thoft’s writing is clean and crisp, though, and she weaves the story together without too many stutters, although few readers will fail to figure out key plot twists fairly early in the action. She also commits the mistake of incorporating relentless descriptions of both the clothing and hairstyles of the various characters. As for Fina, while Thoft works hard to make her flawed and interesting, mostly she comes across as rash, sloppy and neither moral nor particularly good at what she does.

Thoft’s first effort provides a competent storyline that, while it fails to break new ground, promises to improve over time.

Pub Date: June 18, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-399-16212-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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