This gimmick novel is never as tough as you hope it will be but never as soft as you fear.


When word reaches Richie Cunningham that Fonzie has died in a motorcycle crash, he travels from 1980s Hollywood to his Wisconsin hometown and finds himself drawn into a mystery involving his late friend and local politics.

Richie, now Richard, Cunningham has made a name for himself as a screenwriter in the new Hollywood of the 1970s, though he finds his career stalling, and, as Star Wars is ascendant, he's unable to find funding for his directing debut, an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel Suttree. He has a chance to revive his career by scripting a quickie Star Wars rip-off, but, despite his dwindling bank account, he's reluctant to sell out his dreams. News of Fonzie's death gives him a melancholy reprieve before he makes his decision. Heading to his hometown, staying in the house where he grew up (now occupied by Joanie and Chachi), being resented by his old friends Potsie and Ralph (who think he's a stuck-up Hollywood type), Richard is slowly drawn into a local political campaign and the unsettling sense that he's being watched. As a mystery, it's a fairly basic outing. But as a kind of wish-fulfillment fantasy about going back to your hometown as a fading success and finding a way to restore old ties, the novel is almost shamelessly entertaining. A sharper, darker novel pokes out at moments, as in the way that Potsie and Ralph, still slogging away in a cover band, don't distinguish between Springsteen and Journey. For the most part, it's content to be pleasant, and the amiability is quite pleasing.

This gimmick novel is never as tough as you hope it will be but never as soft as you fear.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9688-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.


Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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