A quick but diverting read, sublimely led by a grounded detective who earns her series.



From the Sarah Woods series , Vol. 7

A New Hampshire private eye in Florida with her boyfriend works an off-the-books case—the search for a blackmailer—in this mystery.

Sarah Woods just got her private investigator’s license mere weeks ago, but she’s in Palm Beach for pleasure. More specifically, for alone time with her boyfriend, Max Stevens, already in Florida updating a security system for real estate mogul Dennis Foster. Sarah’s a bit concerned about her beau working with Jennifer Healy, his ex and Dennis’ personal assistant, who recommended Max for the job. But the detective will soon have her hands full: after Dennis dies from a sudden heart attack, his widow, Brook, asks for Sarah’s help in finding someone who had blackmailed her with photographic evidence of an affair. Brook’s paid off the blackmailer but now wants the person identified, especially because the leverage is gone. Sarah has her more seasoned partner, Carter, fly down, and the two start their investigation with the likely suspect of Angela, Dennis’ estranged daughter who happens to despise her stepmom, Brook. Delving deeper into the case, Sarah uncovers secrets that point to other prospective blackmailers. And she can’t help but be distracted by Jennifer, whose apparent grief over Dennis’ death seems to be an excuse to get closer to Max and maybe drive a wedge between the couple. Jennings’ (The Art of Duplicity, 2013, etc.) novel takes a curious approach to the familiar scene of a character dropping dead at a dinner party, as it sparks not a murder mystery but a blackmail case. Sarah is engrossing, fully embracing her few shortcomings. She and Carter, for one, aren’t above violating the law to resolve the case (a little breaking and entering, perhaps), while distrustful Sarah furtively peruses one of Max’s texts. The protagonist’s first-person narrative is dry, perfectly suited for private eye Sarah, as if she’s mentally checking only pertinent details, like someone’s attire or lack of social skills. But it does nothing for her relationship with Max; their intimacy is a simple “roll in the hay,” giving potential infidelity minute impact. Readers will likely guess a plot turn or two, but there are enough to keep the story moving at a delightfully steady pace.

A quick but diverting read, sublimely led by a grounded detective who earns her series.

Pub Date: March 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4995-0046-2

Page Count: 174

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

The racism, classism, and sexism of 50 years ago wrapped up in a stylish, sexy, suspenseful period drama about a newsroom...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller


Baltimore in the 1960s is the setting for this historical fiction about a real-life unsolved drowning.

In her most ambitious work to date, Lippman (Sunburn, 2018, etc.) tells the story of Maddie Schwartz, an attractive 37-year-old Jewish housewife who abruptly leaves her husband and son to pursue a long-held ambition to be a journalist, and Cleo Sherwood, an African-American cocktail waitress about whom little is known. Sherwood's body was found in a lake in a city park months after she disappeared, and while no one else seems to care enough to investigate, Maddie becomes obsessed—partly due to certain similarities she perceives between her life and Cleo's, partly due to her faith in her own detective skills. The story unfolds from Maddie's point of view as well as that of Cleo's ghost, who seems to be watching from behind the scenes, commenting acerbically on Maddie's nosing around like a bull in a china shop after getting a job at one of the city papers. Added to these are a chorus of Baltimore characters who make vivid one-time appearances: a jewelry store clerk, an about-to-be-murdered schoolgirl, "Mr. Helpline," a bartender, a political operative, a waitress, a Baltimore Oriole, the first African-American female policewoman (these last two are based on real people), and many more. Maddie's ambition propels her forward despite the cost to others, including the family of the deceased and her own secret lover, a black policeman. Lippman's high-def depiction of 1960s Baltimore and the atmosphere of the newsroom at that time—she interviewed associates of her father, Baltimore Sun journalist Theo Lippman Jr., for the details—ground the book in fascinating historical fact.The literary gambit she balances atop that foundation—the collage of voices—works impressively, showcasing the author's gift for rhythms of speech. The story is bigger than the crime, and the crime is bigger than its solution, making Lippman's skill as a mystery novelist work as icing on the cake.

The racism, classism, and sexism of 50 years ago wrapped up in a stylish, sexy, suspenseful period drama about a newsroom and the city it covers.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-239001-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet