RED SKY AT NIGHT

Thorn, Key Largo's most heroic fishing guide, confirms his credentials as self-ordained savior of the Florida ecosphere when he avenges the killings of 11 dolphins. The dolphins were the property of Thorn's friend Roy Everly, who used them as therapeutic swimming companions for the ailing until somebody sneaked into his healing center and slaughtered them in a grisly, elaborate manner. Why would anybody want to kill the harmless, friendly, restorative dolphins? Endorphins, decides Roy; the killers tortured them in order to flood their brains and spinal columns with miraculous painkilling chemicals and then harvested the endorphin-rich organs. It's only natural that Thorn, looking for information about the likely harvesters, should ask his old sawbones, Dr. Bean Wilson, and Wilson's anesthesiologist son Bean Jr., Thorn's childhood buddy and rival. But what's natural this time isn't what's good, since Bean Jr., a researcher in pain management who runs a VA clinic that's come under the watchful (if unofficial) eye of the local DEA chief, is the bad guy, engineering an incident that leaves Thorn's legs seemingly paralyzed. He keeps Thorn immobilized in his Key West clinic while he waits to load him onto the yacht where he conducts his (so far hideously unsuccessful) endorphin experiments. Since Hall is as generous as ever with his subplots, it's no surprise to find the yacht also stocked with Tran van Hung, the Vietnamese money man who's bankrolling Bean Jr.'s experiments; Greta Masterson, the undercover DEA agent they've picked for their latest guinea pig; and Carlos Echeverria, the turncoat DEA agent who keeps Bean up on what the good guys are doing. Looks like the unlegged Thorn and his self-described fiancÇe, plucky Monica Sampson, have their work cut out for them. If you can overlook Thorn's preening for the Hemingway Attitude award, there's lots of expert action and some entertaining pop psychology here, without the overblown self- importance that sank Buzz Cut (1996). (Author tour)

Pub Date: July 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-385-31638-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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