An erudite and entertaining addition to the shelf.

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THE MOMENT BEFORE DROWNING

An exploration of political oppression wrapped in a carefully constructed mystery.

In Brydon’s auspicious debut, Capitaine Jacques le Garrec is a member of the French Resistance who, after the war, joined the Paris police and, in 1957, was seconded to the intelligence service, serving as an interrogator at al-Mazra’a during the Algerian Revolution. In 1959 he returns to France in disgrace. A “heinous crime” has been committed, and his culpability in it will be determined at a hearing in a week’s time. He is permitted to return home to Sainte-Elisabeth in Brittany until the hearing. When he arrives he is asked by an old friend to investigate the unsolved murder of Anne-Lise Aurigny; as his investigation of this young woman’s death proceeds, the nature of the “heinous crime” is revealed in a series of flashbacks: A young Algerian woman has died in his custody, and in his report, le Garrec accuses the commander of al-Mazra’a, Lt.-Col. Lambert, whose first demand of le Garrec was that he shoot a prisoner, of maintaining a brutal and bigoted colonial rule. This, more than the woman’s death, is his crime. In a parallel conflict, le Garrec must contend with the nihilistic Capt. Lafourgue of the Sainte-Elisabeth police, who believes that the role of the police is to “scare people...to create terror,” and to be “the tentacles of power made visible.” The two commanders are the poles of le Garrec’s existence as he struggles to bring meaning to the deaths of the women, while behind the Algerian sun the spirit of Sartre smiles down. Though the descriptive prose is sometimes overcooked, the characters are alive and the mystery is mostly satisfying.

An erudite and entertaining addition to the shelf.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61775-652-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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