The killer may be elusive, but the plot is tangled in far too many red herrings.

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A CATERED COSTUME PARTY

Holidays are never happy occasions for a pair of sleuthing sisters.

Bernie and Libby Simmons are so used to murders arriving on holidays (A Catered Tea Party, 2016, etc.) that they’re hardly surprised when one turns up for Halloween—which is, after all, made for murder. The sisters are catering a costume party for Darius Witherspoon, who’s been under a lot of stress since the disappearance of his wife, Penelope, from their Manhattan apartment. Bernie and Libby have recently bought a condo at the remodeled Berkshire Arms, not too far up the Hudson River from the city, and Darius had also bought a condo there before his wife disappeared, hoping to move in soon. He decides to throw his party despite Penelope's disappearance: "Halloween was her favorite holiday," he tells Bernie and Libby. The sisters' best efforts to set up a tasty feast come to a crashing end, though, when Darius flies out his apartment window with a rope around his neck. The sheriff, who already has it in for the amateur sleuths, writes it off as suicide, but once Bernie opens the envelope that Darius insisted she keep in her safe, they’re sure it was murder. The envelope contains $5,000 and a plea for the sisters to investigate his death. Darius’ enemies include his partner in a gallery the dead man neglected, preferring to go on treasure hunting expeditions that never panned out. Nor is he beloved of the owner of the Berkshire Arms and his son, both of whom lost money in one of his schemes. Bernie and Libby manage to get themselves locked on the roof of the Berkshire Arms. Escaping, they find the body of Penelope Witherspoon, the missing wife, hanging in a tree. As the sisters stumble from one investigation to the next, they are ever hopeful even though they never seem to get the right answers to their questions.

The killer may be elusive, but the plot is tangled in far too many red herrings.

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61773-337-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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