Character actions don’t always make sense, but the story carries a marked impression of dread and impending doom.

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Strategy for Murder

In Verdeyen’s debut thriller, there’s a hitch to a man’s perfect murder of his wife: he must travel to Indiana to recover jewelry from a mistakenly sold piece of furniture.

Attorney Steven Babcock may have gotten away with murder. He seems to have covered all his bases in the plot to kill his wife, Marian, but he didn’t count on the auction company inadvertently selling his hutch, where he’s stashed some of Marian’s more extravagant jewels. He manages to track the hutch to antique shop owner Bob Hillard in Illinois. Unfortunately, he has to kill Bob to get the pertinent information: Indiana native Jennifer Osbourn, it seems, is the hutch’s newest owner. Steven is on the hunt, but Jennifer and Chicago PI Matt Broadhurst are looking into Bob’s murder. The lawyer’s inquiries to Jennifer about the antique piece make the two suspicious, and it might not be easy for Steven to retrieve the jewelry. Verdeyen’s novel is a subdued but competent thriller. Steven, for one, is a frighteningly meticulous villain. He’s generally impolite but not outright violent, and his plot for Marian’s murder is chillingly cold and depraved. A fair amount of first-person perspective from Steven only solidifies his detailed scheming and unsettling lack of guilt or empathy. His behavior when searching for the jewelry, however, is strange: he doesn’t simply explain the error to Bob or insist that the company, whose auctioneer admitted to the mistake, reclaim the hutch for him. In fact, he becomes increasingly desperate as the story progresses, which adds to the suspense, especially when he assumes that the hutch is in Jennifer’s house. There’s an implied attraction between Jennifer and Matt, but it fortunately never overwhelms the story. The duo form an unlikely but believable investigative team, piecing together recent goings-on like an odd phone call or a shopper at Jennifer’s store asking about a hutch. Still, some of their decisions are confusing: Matt suggests not calling the cops because, he says, the two have neither a name nor a description of Bob’s possible killer, though Steven’s mysterious call and shop visit have given Jennifer both.

Character actions don’t always make sense, but the story carries a marked impression of dread and impending doom.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1499296990

Page Count: 158

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2015

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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