After a lifetime of deep, dark fiction like Dalva (1988) and True North (2004), Harrison is entitled to relax with these...

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THE BIG SEVEN

Ex-cop Sunderson is as bemused as ever in Harrison’s follow-up to The Great Leader (2011).

“The Big Seven” are those deadly sins their Lutheran pastor thundered against when Sunderson was a boy, leaving him with a permanent fixation on his own and others’ moral failings. Lechery and gluttony are definitely the big ones for the now-retired Michigan State Police detective: This semimystery contains the same abundant, enthusiastic descriptions of food found in virtually all Harrison’s work, and the heavy drinking that led to Sunderson's divorce from still-beloved Diane doesn’t keep him from a booklong affair with 19-year-old Monica or a one-night stand with his adopted daughter, Mona (both relationships, improbably and distastefully, initiated by the young women). Sunderson’s misdeeds pale in comparison to those of the Ames family, which occupies three ramshackle farmhouses near his fishing cabin in rural Michigan. Monica is one of the low-life clan’s many women abused from childhood by male relatives; the lurid plot is launched by her sister Lily’s death in a shootout with her cousin Tom, both wielding AK-47s. It doesn’t get any more plausible after this, as an epidemic of poisonings carries off several more Ameses, none of them any great loss. Violence should definitely be considered the eighth deadly sin, concludes Sunderson, whose efforts to write an essay on the subject—and to cut down on his drinking—bring him closer to Diane and the possibility of a reconciliation. You can’t help but like feckless, unpretentiously intellectual Sunderson, inclined to tie himself in metaphysical knots when not fishing or otherwise engaging with the natural world whose splendors, movingly described, succor him in a way nothing else can. The poisonings are resolved with yet more bloodshed, and the possibility of another case for our hero is blatantly flourished.

After a lifetime of deep, dark fiction like Dalva (1988) and True North (2004), Harrison is entitled to relax with these autumnal ramblings.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2333-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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