An accomplished launch of a promising new spirituality-focused small-town series.

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SIREN SONG

A PENNY POUND MYSTERY

Penny Pound, divorced mom, schoolteacher and church organist, gets caught up in the investigations that follow a deadly blaze at a student’s home in this first installment of a planned series.

Penny Pound is a third-grade teacher in Redfield, Ohio, in 1990. She also serves as organist at the nearby Episcopal church, led by the kindly Rev. Huddleston. Offbeat, yet deeply engaged with her students, Penny feels under scrutiny since she doesn’t always follow the school’s curriculum. It doesn’t help that her professor ex-husband convinced their 15-year-old son, Sam, to live with him and only visit her on weekends. Still, she has supportive friends—African-American school psychologist Glory, fellow newbie teacher Robin and choirmaster Andrew. Her retired cop father calls to tell her about a fire at the home of her student Keith. The circumstances are peculiar: Keith’s mother is acting strangely, her current boyfriend and ex-husband have criminal pasts, and Keith’s brother, who perished in the blaze, was drugged. A multilayered investigation ensues. Penny soon meets firefighter Jake Richards and experiences combustible attraction. Then her caring outreach to Keith prompts its own suspicions, leading to a final fiery showdown. First-time novelist Greenwood has created an appealing world that has elements of a cozy as well as the small-town charm and spirituality found in Jan Karon’s Mitford series. Keith’s home life proves to be quite dark and disturbing, which lends a somewhat jarring undertone to this largely folksy narrative. Greenwood addresses this issue squarely, providing several beautifully written, touching scenes that point the way, as do sprinklings of excerpts from prayers and hymns, to this planned series’ focus on redemption, hope and light. Overall, a skillful debut.

An accomplished launch of a promising new spirituality-focused small-town series.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500604523

Page Count: 326

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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