Lamar (Rendezvous Eighteenth, 2003, etc.) writes of Paris with charm and authority, but his storytelling tends to waver.

GHOSTS OF SAINT-MICHEL

Hugger-muggery and some heavy breathing among the African American ex-pats in Paris's lively 18th Arrondissement.

It’s 16 days before 9/11, a fateful time as al-Qaeda's finger curls around the trigger. Of that, of course, Marva Dobbs is blissfully unaware, “blissfully” being the operative word—for the lady's in love. One of the most celebrated black women in France, she's famous for being beautiful, discreet and a culinary genius. She owns and operates Marva's Soul Food Kitchen (“ ‘It's just home cookin’, baby’ ”), long an obligatory stop on the tourist trail. But all of that is by the board, since at the age of 62, Marva has gone gaga over a 28-year-old Algerian cutie, the sous chef in her restaurant, about whom she thinks “incessantly, obsessively,” and with whom she has rip-roaring, “mind-shattering” sex. Unfortunately, it just might be that Hassan Mekachera is a terrorist. At any rate, he's disappeared, and in the aftermath of a vicious car-bombing, the police are searching for him. Worried sick, Marva goes searching for him, too, and wrecks her car. Enter daughter Naima, summoned by her distraught father from New York, where she's been working as an assistant director on a movie set. As it turns out, Marva has escaped serious injury, escaping as well from the hospital to go into hiding with the enigmatic though irresistible Hassan. So now Naima goes searching for Maman, as do the Parisian police and assorted clandestine types from both sides of the war on terror, bent on the usual conspiracies and gratuitous betrayals. In a climactic confrontation on the Place Saint-Michel, guns blaze, bodies fall and most of the hodge-podge gets sorted out.

Lamar (Rendezvous Eighteenth, 2003, etc.) writes of Paris with charm and authority, but his storytelling tends to waver.

Pub Date: June 5, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-28925-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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