Although more academic-minded readers are likely to frown over Westerson’s hit-or-miss approach to history, fans will...

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SEASON OF BLOOD

A disgraced knight searches for a deadly holy object in medieval England.

Ever since Crispin Guest’s fall from glory when he backed the wrong side of a royal rebellion, he’s earned a living from his sharp wits. His sharp ears help, too, especially when he realizes he’s being followed back to the former poulterer’s shop he calls home. It’s nothing compared to what he owned when he was Sir Crispin, but in the year of grace 1390, the plain dwelling must suddenly play host to his unexpected follower, a woman with a fur collar, long, pointed slippers, and enticing auburn hair. She wants him to find her niece, who she fears has run off with Simon Wynchecombe, the married former Lord Sheriff of London and Crispin’s nemesis. A monk asking for Crispin arrives only to die with a dagger in his back. From his hands falls a strange crystal container flowing with red liquid: a reliquary supposedly containing the blood of Christ. Crispin reports the monk’s murder to the authorities, hires a cross-dressing male prostitute to watch over the lady who asked for his help, and returns the reliquary to the abbey from which it was taken. He learns that another monk is missing and still another has died, all for the holy receptacle. Crispin, no stranger to reliquaries and their inherent dangers (A Maiden Weeping, 2016, etc.), attempts to find a safe place for it and shelter for Wynchecombe, who proclaims his innocence even though his dagger killed Crispin’s visitor. Parking him at the modest home of his landlord, a young lawyer with a great many (presumably hand-lettered, pre-Gutenberg) books, Crispin follows the trail of dead or dying monks and a reliquary that won’t stay put. Then he makes disturbing discoveries about two people he’s come to care about in a crime drama that frustratingly blends careful research with casual anachronisms.

Although more academic-minded readers are likely to frown over Westerson’s hit-or-miss approach to history, fans will welcome her hero’s return in his 10th reliquary adventure.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7278-8747-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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