The mystery is nothing to write home about, but the high-maintenance housemates and talking pythons will certainly hold your...

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DEATH BY DRAGONFLY

An art nouveau dragonfly entangles a detective and a psychic in a confusing case.

Psychic Camden owns a boardinghouse filled with odd characters cordially disliked by his wife, Ellin, who runs the Psychic Network Service and wants Cam to quit his salesclerk job and do shows for the network. She’s especially upset because Matt Graber, a fake psychic who uses two pythons in his act, has gone over her head to get a show on the network. One of Cam’s tenants is David Randall, a private detective who often counts on Cam for help with his cases (Baby Take a Bow, 2017, etc.). David’s newest client is Leo Pierson, a flamboyant actor whose home has recently been robbed of several valuable art nouveau pieces, including a stunning Lalique dragonfly reputed to be cursed. Although Pierson inherited them from his father, there’s been an ongoing family feud, and the pieces that were stolen are reputed to hold a clue to a large fortune. Several habitués of the art world knew about the collection. Although Pierson doesn’t suspect them, Randall thinks interviewing them is a great place to start. Meanwhile, museum curator Samuel Gallant has gone missing. When they visit a gallery, Cam has a vision of Gallant’s dead body, and sure enough, the corpse is soon found in a storage closet. Kit, a musician who lives at the boardinghouse, is another psychic who’s leaned on Cam to learn how to control his powers. Now it’s Cam who’s having problems and taking pills to help with his headaches and sudden frenetic waves of visions followed by no visions at all. Everyone in the boardinghouse pitches in to help Randall with the case, investigating people involved in the art world and digging up dirt on their pasts. In the end, Cam will need the help of those pythons to get over his uncontrollable visions.

The mystery is nothing to write home about, but the high-maintenance housemates and talking pythons will certainly hold your attention.

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4642-1112-6

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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An eerie and affecting satire of the detective novel.

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DEATH IN HER HANDS

A note suggesting a woman has been killed in the woods captures the imagination of an elderly woman, with alarming intensity.

Vesta, the extremely unreliable narrator of Moshfegh’s fourth novel (My Year of Rest and Relaxation, 2018, etc.), is a 72-year-old widow who’s recently purchased a new home, a cabin on a former Girl Scout camp. Walking her dog through the nearby woods, she sees a note lying on the ground which says that a woman named Magda has been killed "and here is her dead body," but there's no body there or any sign of violence. Call the police? Too easy: Instead, Vesta allows herself to be consumed with imagining what Magda might have been like and the circumstances surrounding her murder. Whatever the opposite of Occam’s razor is, Vesta’s detective work is it: After some web searching on how mystery writers do their work, she surmises that Magda was a Belarussian teen sent to the United States to work at a fast-food restaurant, staying in the basement of a woman whose son, Blake, committed the murder. Moshfegh on occasion plays up the comedy of Vesta’s upside-down thinking: “A good detective presumes more than she interrogates.” But Vesta slowly reveals herself as what we might now call a Moshfegh-ian lead: a woman driven to isolation and feeling disassociated from herself, looking for ways to cover up for a brokenness she's loath to confront. Over the course of the novel, Vesta’s projections about Magda's identity become increasingly potent and heartbreaking symbols of wounds from the narrator's childhood and marriage. The judgmental voice of her late husband, Walter, keeps rattling in her head, and she defiantly insists that “I didn’t want Walter in my mindspace anymore. I wanted to know things on my own.” You simultaneously worry about Vesta and root for her, and Moshfegh’s handling of her story is at once troubling and moving.

An eerie and affecting satire of the detective novel. (This book has been postponed; we'll update the publication date when it's available.)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7935-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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