Despite a surprising next-to-last-minute twist, the author doesn’t plot as if her heart were in it, and the promise of juicy...



Lured from the North Shore town of Cliffside to help rescue a Boston Romeo and Juliet on life support, theatrically invested ex-cop Edwina "Sully" Sullivan finds the star-crossed lovers upstaged by a pair of real-life stranglings.

The story is that the French director the Bay Repertory Theater brought in for their new production of the old chestnut has left because of a family emergency, but he’s actually been fired over notions ranging from the perverse (the sets, the props, and the costumes are all in glossy white) to the perverted (Capulet has the hots for his own daughter). Now that rehearsals have already begun, Bay Rep director Babs Allyn sends a distress signal to Cliffside artistic director Dimitri Traietti, who grabs the reins but is clearly struggling. So Babs asks whether Sully can spare Cliffside stage manager Connie Reed to lend him a hand—and whether, while she’s at it, she can drive Connie down and stand by to help out herself. Sully arrives in plenty of time to run into Kate Smythe, her ex-husband Gus Knight’s partner in law and love, and to attend a party at the University Club at which Babs memorably crosses swords with philanthropist Mimi Cunningham. The next morning, one of the two antagonists is dead, and the Boston cops, including Sully’s own ex-partner, soon begin making noises about how odd it is that Gus has disappeared. All this kerfuffle leaves Romeo and Juliet in the dust, both its romantic lovers and the vexing difficulties of the current production upstaged by Cliffside treasurer Eric Whitehall and his sister, Emma, whose family played such a leading role in Sully’s first case (A Christmas Peril, 2017), and by an undistinguished supporting cast.

Despite a surprising next-to-last-minute twist, the author doesn’t plot as if her heart were in it, and the promise of juicy backstage intrigue is never fulfilled. You’ll be happy to hear, though, that the production goes off without a hitch in the closing pages.

Pub Date: April 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7387-5469-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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