Scarantino’s tireless heroine, who laments, “New Mexico, I love you…Goddamn, why make it so hard?” is definitely progressing...

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COMPROMISED

Detective Denise Aragon returns for another caustic round of cleaning Santa Fe’s reeking streets and courthouses.

The good news is that Aragon has a witness who can connect her sworn enemies, Chief Judge Judy Diaz and her lover, rogue attorney Marcy Thornton, to a wild sex party that left an underage schoolgirl shot to death in a dumpster. The bad news is that Lily Montclaire’s not much of a witness. She acted as a procurer for the party; getting a statement out of her is like pulling teeth; she didn’t really see all that much; and once the judge gets word that she’s talking, a lot of unsavory types will be looking to prevent her from ever taking the stand. Nor is Aragon, who built quite a reputation when she went up against wholesale killer Cody Geronimo (The Drum Within, 2016), immune from the more unsavory pressures of the case herself. Her lover, FBI agent Tomas Rivera, is consorting with the enemy; her brother and sister-in-law aren’t exactly thrilled to be entertaining Lily Montclaire at their ranch out in God’s country; and her investigation has raised the hackles of the Silva twins, Benny and Rigo, whose waste/salvage operation seems to have a finger in every dirty pie in the city. The only thing that keeps Aragon from summary execution, it seems, is the resentment and disorganization of the bad guys, who are even more eager to get payback against each other and skim more money from wherever it can be found than to neutralize the officer who’s sworn to take them down. The results are less crime and punishment than mayhem and more.

Scarantino’s tireless heroine, who laments, “New Mexico, I love you…Goddamn, why make it so hard?” is definitely progressing in making her hometown fit for human beings, but there’s plenty of work left for the next installment.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7387-5040-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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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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