A complicated page-turner of a history-based thriller whose predecessor (Salem’s Cipher, 2016) is virtually a prerequisite...

A cryptanalyst takes on a worldwide conspiracy targeting women.

This isn’t the first time Salem Wiley has reluctantly fought the powerful group known as the Hermitage or the Order. In fact, she was raised by her family, especially her unloving mother—a leader in the Underground, an ancient group fighting for women's rights—to uncover secret, long-buried clues that could help the women’s cause. Despite her agoraphobia, Salem has now joined the FBI’s top-secret Black Chamber. Her first assignment takes her to England, where U.S. President Gina Hayes will attend a conference, and Ireland, where a woman has called in a tip that Hayes will be assassinated while in London. The Irishwoman reveals a replica of Stonehenge that’s perfect but for an extra stone with the word "mercy" carved on it. Astonished by the revelation that Stonehenge has something to do with feminism, Salem keeps it to herself while she ponders whether mercy is a plea or something to do with Mercy Mayfair, a child she met when she and her best friend, Bel, thwarted an earlier attempt to kill Hayes. Salem’s assigned to work with Charlie Thackeray, a member of British Intelligence, rather than Lucan Stone, the FBI agent she has a crush on, who turns out to be in London along with Salem's mother, Vida, and Mercy Mayfair. While Salem uses her experimental computer program to learn more about Stonehenge, world-class assassins hired by the Hermitage plot to kill the president and Salem once she solves the puzzles. They kidnap Mercy to force her compliance. Salem’s search takes her from Stonehenge to the Orkneys and back to Ireland in a desperate and dangerous search for clues. Never knowing who she can trust and nearly crippled by her fears, she soldiers on, refusing to abandon Mercy.

A complicated page-turner of a history-based thriller whose predecessor (Salem’s Cipher, 2016) is virtually a prerequisite to understanding the tangled relationships and fascinating backstory.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7387-5755-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018


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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


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 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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