A quirky conglomeration of popular culture that’s worth the price of admission.

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CUT TO WAGSTAFF

Wagstaff, a modern Renaissance man, believes the universe speaks to him through images of film scenes as he follows clues that lead him to humorous, harrowing situations.

Berkin puts popular culture to the test as Professor Wagstaff, a lecturer of film and art (among various other professions), sets out to solve a mystery. Wagstaff luckily has some very powerful friends, and Rafik, his superior at an ambiguous government entity, supports him in his unorthodox method of investigation.  Upon discovering some “copies of The Third Man in a succession of yard sales,” Wagstaff believes the universe is sending him upon his next adventure, and when he discovers that Rob, the IT guy, has disappeared, Wagstaff decides it’s his duty to locate him. Upon this quest, films begin to overlap and the clues lead him to discoveries that may help him save the world from an evil plan of domination. Wagstaff has many friends through his connections as a professor, and his beloved former students often step in to help him along the way. Everyone is aware of his unique methods, and many, even Wagstaff himself at times, know he’s eccentric and possibly insane, but they all seem to accept this about him. His inherent flaws are endearing, and he overlooks much else to focus on the role of film in his next adventure. The book reads like a script as Wagstaff self-deprecatingly narrates his exploits. And true to silver-screen format, there are explosions, sexual tension, big money, plot twists and lowbrow humor. Berkin pulls out all the stops; no big screen moment is lost in this tale.

A quirky conglomeration of popular culture that’s worth the price of admission.

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1477532720

Page Count: 282

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2012

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Darkly essential reading for every genre fan who’s ever considered sending a swab to a mail-order DNA testing service.

FAIR WARNING

A first-rate case for Connelly’s third-string detective, bulldog journalist Jack McEvoy, who’s been biding his time since The Scarecrow (2009) as Harry Bosch and the Lincoln Lawyer have hogged the spotlight.

The consumer-protection website FairWarning can’t hold a candle to the LA Times, where Jack once plied his trade. The real problem this time, though, is that the cops come to Jack rather than vice versa, as a person of interest who had a one-night stand a year ago with Christina Portrero, whose latest one-night stand broke her neck. In fact, Jack quickly discovers, Tina was only the most recent among a number of women who died of atlanto-occipital dislocation—several of them erroneously listed as accidents, all of them clients of the genetic testing firm GT23. Why would sending out your DNA for genetic information put you at enormously increased risk of falling victim to a brutal killer who calls himself the Shrike? The answer to the question of how “predators now can custom-order their victims,” which lies in the DRD4 gene, is guaranteed to make even the most hard-bitten readers queasy. Throughout his pursuit of the killer, the LAPD’s pursuit of him, and his unwilling partnerships with fellow journalist Emily Atwater and former FBI agent Rachel Walling, Jack works the case with a dogged professionalism, a mastery of detail, and a scarred but oversized heart that puts most of his police procedural cousins to shame.

Darkly essential reading for every genre fan who’s ever considered sending a swab to a mail-order DNA testing service.

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-31653-942-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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