Thriller fans will enjoy this absorbing and disturbing book.


Lawmen face a group of brutal killers along the Mexican borderlands in the author’s third West Texas thriller (High White Sun, 2018, etc.).

In Mexico, violent groups fighting to dominate the lucrative drug trade will stop at nothing. Two busloads of normalistas, or student teachers, are stopped and shot. Three are killed, many wounded, and 19 are missing. Across the border, Deputy Sheriff Danny Ford discovers bodies floating in the Rio Grande, known in Mexico as the Río Bravo. Enemies of vicious crime lord Fox Uno may have orchestrated the crimes so the blame would fall on him—quite plausible for a killer who says “I am Death, my friend.” Those enemies plotting a hostile takeover include his own son, Martino. Fox Uno crosses over to Murfee, Texas, to see his niece, America. Nicknamed Amé, she is deputy to Sheriff Chris Cherry, the embattled star of the series. His bailiwick is the vast Big Bend region, including a borderland called “a blighted war zone.” The Mexican government wants U.S. help in solving the crimes, getting Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Special Agent Joe Garrison and Sheriff Cherry’s department involved. The novel is filled with colorful characters and memorable lines. Eddy Lee “Take-Out” Rabbit is a pathetic meth addict who wants to recover but probably won’t. Deputy Danny Ford, an Afghanistan vet, remembers “You never forgot the smell of a fresh corpse.” And if readers want to get prompt police attention, they can quote Martino’s observation that “It took a surprisingly long time to cut all the way through a man’s neck.” Meanwhile, Cherry expects to lose reelection while he worries about the safety of his wife, Mel, and their infant son. The story’s premise is based on a real event, the disappearance of 43 normalistas in 2014. The author exploits his decades of experience as a federal agent to create a powerful, realistic picture of crime along the southern border.

Thriller fans will enjoy this absorbing and disturbing book.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1291-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.


Happy birthday, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. But no Florida vacation for you and your husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley—not because President Barack Obama is visiting Cambridge, but because a deranged sniper has come to town.

Shortly after everyone’s favorite forensic pathologist (Dust, 2013, etc.) receives a sinister email from a correspondent dubbed Copperhead, she goes outside to find seven pennies—all polished, all turned heads-up, all dated 1981—on her garden wall. Clearly there’s trouble afoot, though she’s not sure what form it will take until five minutes later, when a call from her old friend and former employee Pete Marino, now a detective with the Cambridge Police, summons her to the scene of a shooting. Jamal Nari was a high school music teacher who became a minor celebrity when his name was mistakenly placed on a terrorist watch list; he claimed government persecution, and he ended up having a beer with the president. Now he’s in the news for quite a different reason. Bizarrely, the first tweets announcing his death seem to have preceded it by 45 minutes. And Leo Gantz, a student at Nari’s school, has confessed to his murder, even though he couldn’t possibly have done it. But these complications are only the prelude to a banquet of homicide past and present, as Scarpetta and Marino realize when they link Nari’s murder to a series of killings in New Jersey. For a while, the peripheral presence of the president makes you wonder if this will be the case that finally takes the primary focus off the investigator’s private life. But most of the characters are members of Scarpetta’s entourage, the main conflicts involve infighting among the regulars, and the killer turns out to be a familiar nemesis Scarpetta thought she’d left for dead several installments back. As if.

No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232534-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?