Shallow and snarky, though the concept is clever.

THE BIG OVER EASY

Humpty Dumpty fell off his wall, and the Nursery Crimes Division opened an investigation.

Welcome to the beginning of a whole new wave of mysteries soon to be thickening bookstore shelves everywhere, because if Fforde (The Well of Lost Plots, 2003, etc.) knows one thing, it’s that for every bit of innovation you must give the audience at least another of cliché. Nursery rhymes have come to life in his latest, but the crimes are just as grotesquely complex, the press as vainglorious, the coppers divided between greedy attention-seekers and humble head-down heroes, as in the real world. The Reading police department is unnaturally enamored with DCI Friedland Chymes, who not only always gets his man but is also able to solve crimes in a snappy yet dramatic fashion that makes fantastic copy when he writes them up for the magazines. Jack Spratt, stuck over in NCD (Nursery Crimes Division), has hardly the reputation of Friedland—there’s that awkward business of bungling the Three Little Pigs case—and Spratt’s newest problem is the untimely death of one very large egg. Humpty Dumpty just loved to sit on his wall, but he’s been done in in a rather nasty fashion. With a scrappy new partner at his side (if she’s good enough, she might soon push for a promotion to Official Sidekick), Spratt digs into Humpty’s messy life: the divorce, the dozens upon dozens of ex-girlfriends and jilted lovers, the poorly thought-out investment schemes, etc. Fforde lays on his erudition with a trowel, slathering literary references all over his rote detective story. Of course, it being rote is part of the point, as Fforde’s trying to deconstruct the whole genre. While the effect is at first hilarious and ingenious, eventually the charm wears off.

Shallow and snarky, though the concept is clever.

Pub Date: July 25, 2005

ISBN: 0-670-03423-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2005

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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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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