By-the-book plotting gives this novel less flair than earlier series entries, though a final twist wraps things up neatly.

ALL THE BEST LIES

Desperate to solve the years-old case of his slain mother, an FBI agent digs into Vegas dirt alongside a woman with whom he has a complex relationship.

Mail-in DNA tests upend the world of Reed Markham, who’s spent his whole life thinking he was adopted only to learn that his adoptive father, Angus, is also his biological father. A lesser man would just sit with the news, but Reed’s an FBI agent with the will and the means to learn more, particularly about the murder of his birth mother, Camilla Flores. Cammie was a Puerto Rican immigrant working hard to make ends meet in 1970s Las Vegas when she was viciously attacked and stabbed to death as her 4-month-old baby slept in another room. Though her murder has never been solved, police wisdom seems to think that it was the work of a local drug dealer Cammie was prepared to testify against. But Reed’s investigative know-how tells him the crime was more personal, and now that he knows the truth about Angus, Reed needs to learn whether his father was involved in Cammie’s death. Ably assisting Reed is Ellery Hathaway, the one person (unlike his ex-wife, Sarit) who won’t judge his quest. Reed and Ellery’s complicated relationship began when she was a child and he was the agent who rescued her from the clutches of a serial killer. Now that she’s become a cop, Ellery’s shared with Reed trauma histories, investigative skills, and poor boundaries as they’ve solved several cases on and off the books, even as their relationship has veered toward romance—though their history makes this turn something Schaffhausen (No Mercy, 2019, etc.) can’t quite pull off. Now that he’s in Vegas to learn the truth about his mother, Reed also wants to figure out what he and Ellery have together.

By-the-book plotting gives this novel less flair than earlier series entries, though a final twist wraps things up neatly.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-297389

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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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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