It’s interesting to see Robb’s evergreen heroine trying to prevent murders in addition to investigating them, even if her...

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DARK IN DEATH

For Lt. Eve Dallas' 46th case, Robb resurrects the plot of the old copycat horror movie Theater of Blood, but instead of having a murderer imitate Shakespearean crimes, she uses scenes written by a 2061 mystery novelist.

What’s scarier than a screening of Psycho? The murder of an audience member in the middle of the iconic shower scene, that’s what. The victim is actress Chanel Rylan, whose roommate and companion, veterinarian Lola Kawaski, swears that she didn’t have an enemy in the world. But the meticulous planning of the killer, who lured Lola away from her seat with a bogus emergency phone call moments before plunging an icepick into Chanel’s back, makes it clear that this was no random act of violence. Eve and her sidekick, Detective Amelia Peabody, have barely started to question the obvious witnesses when “really famous novelist” Blaine DeLano comes to the station to confess that one of her thrillers provided a detailed blueprint for the murder—and indeed for the killing of Rosie Kent, who was strangled a month ago in a scenario clearly borrowed from another of Blaine’s bestselling novels. Once Eve and Peabody have satisfied themselves that the murderer is indeed cribbing from Blaine, they take the logical next step: scouring the rest of her oeuvre for the fictional victims most likely to be replicated by the real-life killer, identifying the New Yorkers who match their profiles most closely, and warning them to watch their backs. Their efforts aren’t enough to prevent a third murder. But by the time they finally make an arrest, Eve—who’d rather be spending the time celebrating the winter vacation of her megabucks husband Roarke’s majordomo, Summerset, by making love in every possible new location in their mansion—has collected so much evidence that her climactic interrogation of the perp, normally a high point in this series (Secrets in Death, 2017, etc.), is merely a formality.

It’s interesting to see Robb’s evergreen heroine trying to prevent murders in addition to investigating them, even if her indifferent success makes her efforts less than inspiring.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-16153-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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