Lively, but Hoar is intentionally aiming low.


A vet recluse turns hit man in a smartish first thriller debut from Hoar (stories: Body Parts, 1992).

“There are costs to society when it bloods its young men . . . when it teaches them it’s all right to kill certain human beings.” Luke Carr had 19 confirmed kills in Vietnam, and by the third tour he was sick of it. But life back home in Mississippi doesn’t make much sense anymore, either, so when the events of the story begin to unfold he’s kind of a high-rent Rambo: he retreats and flashes back similarly, but he can appreciate sophisticated graffiti like “Nietzsche is dead—God.” Luke is literate: “Books turn bullets,” he tells us, “insulate walls, impress women, and protect against radiation. That’s in addition to providing company, solace, information, and entertainment.” Hoar is trying to bring noir to Mississippi: “When I opened the door there she was . . .. There’s always one woman in your life that’s wrong for you, who’s going to get you into trouble.” Just as Luke is planning to relieve the local hotshot of his art collection, said woman, Kinnerly, conveniently appears, conveniently married to the hotshot, who becomes the hit. The affair between Luke and Kinnerly is a lengthy explanation of why divorce is no good and the hit must occur: money, saved children, trophy wives, etc., spliced together with sex and semiliterary puns (“ ‘A good man? They’re hard to find,’ I said”). But Luke’s on to the pending double cross—the only question being how many murders he will have to commit in the wake of murdering his lover’s husband, and might the femme fatale give new meaning to the word “fatale”? Is this tragedy more akin to Chandler or Shakespeare? Hoar’s storytelling is crisp and sometimes inventive and cute (“Dogs that smile overdo it”), but place isn’t rendered as often as it might be, and this is a far more noirish effort than a southern one.

Lively, but Hoar is intentionally aiming low.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-893956-34-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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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

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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 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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