The laughs keep coming with Riley and her network of all-but-unbelievable co-stars, though the mystery plot could be trimmed...

THE BAD BREAK

When a fun but flawed obituary writer investigates her subject, she finds that his death might not be as straightforward as she thought.

The first person Tabitha St. Simon calls when she finds the body of her future father-in-law, Dr. Arthur Davenport, is Riley Ellison, her former co-worker at the Tuttle Corner Library and the Tuttle Times’ latest obituarist. Tabitha’s less concerned with what Riley will write than with what Riley might do for her. She’s seen Riley do some solid informal investigating recently (The Good Byline, 2017), and she’s certain that Riley can clear her fiance, Thad, of complicity in Arthur’s murder, even if it’s Thad’s knife sticking out of Arthur’s chest. Riley isn’t close with bridezilla Tabitha, but she knows that if she wants to give Arthur’s obituary the time and thought it deserves, she should learn all she can about him, especially if that might promote her story from the obituary section to the front page. And Riley welcomes the distraction from her personal life. She’s known around town as the girl whose boyfriend, Ryan, left after years together only to knock up the first girl he met, beautiful and improbably named Ridley, and now both Ryan and Ridley are back in town. Ridley is settling in to give birth any day; Ryan, dedicated enough to future fatherhood, claims that Ridley was a blip and is desperate to get Riley back. Riley’s not interested in giving Ryan a second chance, partly because she can’t believe anyone would leave the perfect Ridley, partly because Riley has a real relationship of her own. Now that she’s been set up with Jay via the hilariously overbearing and invasive matchmaking service Click.com, the two are living their best millennial lives together, evidenced by Riley’s accidental and automatic enrollment in Bestmilleniallife.com, which has brought her together with Personal Success Concierge™ and Beyoncé enthusiast Jenna B.

The laughs keep coming with Riley and her network of all-but-unbelievable co-stars, though the mystery plot could be trimmed without abating the otherwise high shine.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-945551-32-1

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Prospect Park Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

FLESH AND BLOOD

Happy birthday, Dr. Kay Scarpetta. But no Florida vacation for you and your husband, FBI profiler Benton Wesley—not because President Barack Obama is visiting Cambridge, but because a deranged sniper has come to town.

Shortly after everyone’s favorite forensic pathologist (Dust, 2013, etc.) receives a sinister email from a correspondent dubbed Copperhead, she goes outside to find seven pennies—all polished, all turned heads-up, all dated 1981—on her garden wall. Clearly there’s trouble afoot, though she’s not sure what form it will take until five minutes later, when a call from her old friend and former employee Pete Marino, now a detective with the Cambridge Police, summons her to the scene of a shooting. Jamal Nari was a high school music teacher who became a minor celebrity when his name was mistakenly placed on a terrorist watch list; he claimed government persecution, and he ended up having a beer with the president. Now he’s in the news for quite a different reason. Bizarrely, the first tweets announcing his death seem to have preceded it by 45 minutes. And Leo Gantz, a student at Nari’s school, has confessed to his murder, even though he couldn’t possibly have done it. But these complications are only the prelude to a banquet of homicide past and present, as Scarpetta and Marino realize when they link Nari’s murder to a series of killings in New Jersey. For a while, the peripheral presence of the president makes you wonder if this will be the case that finally takes the primary focus off the investigator’s private life. But most of the characters are members of Scarpetta’s entourage, the main conflicts involve infighting among the regulars, and the killer turns out to be a familiar nemesis Scarpetta thought she’d left for dead several installments back. As if.

No wonder Scarpetta asks, “When did my workplace become such a soap opera?” Answer: at least 10 years ago.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-232534-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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