Johnson’s innovative style and tone (informed by her own Moroccan vision-quest) transforms what could have been a...

Two needlewomen, centuries apart, find love and career satisfaction in Morocco in this novel from Johnson, the publishing director at HarperCollins UK .

In the early 17th century, corsairs (aka Barbary pirates) from Salé and other Moroccan cities raided coastal waters and villages in the British Isles, kidnapping and enslaving sailors, fisherman and townsfolk. Johnson employs two through-lines, past and present. Julia, a London yuppie and textile craftswoman, is dumped by her longtime lover, antiquarian book dealer Michael, husband of Julia’s best friend, Anna. As a consolation prize Michael hands Julia an antique leather-bound Needle-Woman’s Glorie, a handbook of embroidery patterns, defaced by the marginal jottings of a flame-tressed woman named Cat, age 19. In 1625, Cat, a housemaid to minor Cornish nobility, is reluctantly betrothed to her adoring cousin Rob. She has ambitions that would take her far from her native Penzance, Cornwall. She’s been stitching an altar cloth of her own design for the Countess of Salisbury, hoping to gain entry to the all-male Broderers Guild. By chance, Cat attends a Puritan church service. In mid-sermon, Barbary pirates swarm in and abduct the congregation. Shackled in the ship’s filthy hold, the captives endure starvation and disease. When Al-Andalusi, the ship’s raïs (captain), is wounded in a sea battle, Cat is summoned to his cabin to suture his wounds. Smitten, Al-Andalusi has semi-honorable designs on her. But as the ship approaches Salé harbor, she insults his Muslim faith and is dispatched to the auction block. Back in the present, Michael realizes he’s unintentionally given Julia a priceless artifact. He stalks her to Morocco, where she’s gone to research Cat’s story. But thanks to Julia’s historical quest and a handsome guide named Idriss, she’s now Michael-proof. Cat, sold to a rich merchant, manages his all-female embroidery factory. But the identity of her master is uncertain—could it be the raïs, who’s growing on Cat by the day?

Johnson’s innovative style and tone (informed by her own Moroccan vision-quest) transforms what could have been a conventional swashbuckler-bodice ripper into a witty page-turner.

Pub Date: May 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-307-40522-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2008


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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


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

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 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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