Gritty, sometimes cheesy, very on-the-nose with its message—but satisfying as a murder mystery.

THESE WOMEN

Six women struggle in the shadow of a serial killer who was never apprehended.

“Thirteen girls dead. Fifteen years gone. By Dorian’s count, and her count is right, three other serial murderers have been hauled in, tried, and locked up in Los Angeles in that time. But not a single arrest for the murder of girls along Western.” Dorian is a white woman who owns a fry shop on the edge of a neighborhood known mainly for prostitution and drugs. Her half-black daughter was the 13th and last of the girls found in the street, discarded, with their throats cut. Unlike the others, her daughter was a babysitter, not a prostitute, but no one seems to care about that distinction. No one seems to care about these murders at all except one babbling woman who may have been the sole survivor of the attacks, and no one is listening to her. Then, 15 years later, more girls turn up dead. Pochoda (Wonder Valley, 2017, etc.) again tells a story of Angelenos on the margins. These women’s stories intersect at the murders, and their connections are unraveled by a tiny, bike-riding cop named Essie Perry. It is Perry to whom Dorian comes to complain about the poisoned hummingbirds being left at her fry shop and her home. “What are the chances that a woman who shows up at the station with a box full of dead birds had a daughter killed in nearly identical fashion to three victims found off Western?” wonders Essie. This seamy thriller is loaded with feminist intentions, ideas about photography (including an homage to Larry Sultan), a quick dip into women’s boxing, and more. Unsurprisingly for Pochoda, the strongest character is the LA neighborhood itself.

Gritty, sometimes cheesy, very on-the-nose with its message—but satisfying as a murder mystery.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-265638-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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