No one currently working the field demonstrates more convincingly and joyously the deep affinity between pulp fiction and...

Seven laid-back adventures, one of them brand new, for “freelance troubleshooter” and good old boy Hap Collins and his gay black Republican partner Leonard Pine.

As Michael Koryta notes in his celebratory introduction, salt-and-pepper heroes have been done to death, but Lansdale (Paradise Sky, 2015, etc.) keeps his duo fresh through their dialogue, which manages to sound both relaxed and inventive. The pair talk themselves through three long stories and four short ones. All the long ones are keepers. After Leonard wins a bar fight in “Hyenas,” one of the guys he’s beaten up hires him and Hap to extricate his brother from a gang that specializes in knocking over armored cars. In “Bent Twig,” Hap, initially without Leonard, goes looking for his lover Brett’s semi-kidnapped prostitute daughter, Tillie, who’s “tough as yesterday’s fajita meat.” An estranged wife hires the pair to beat up her fearsome soon-to-be-ex in “Dead Aim”; when someone takes even stronger measures against him, the boys are left holding the bag. The plotting throughout is no more than routine, but the uncovering of layer after layer of double crosses allows Hap and Leonard numerous opportunities to discourse about everything and nothing as Lansdale spins out his trademark redneck similes, the most pungent since Raymond Chandler. Three of the shorter stories go by in a flash: a remembrance of a 1978 “Death by Chili”; a bullied kid’s chilling final act in “The Boy Who Became Invisible”; and Hap’s earliest recollections of Leonard, another kid he’s just befriended, in “Not Our Kind,” the only new story here. Attorney Veil’s defense of Hap on charges of arson in “Veil’s Visit,” co-authored with Andrew Vachss, proves mainly that your best friends aren’t necessarily your best collaborators. The collection is rounded out with Lansdale’s reminiscences about chronicling the pair’s adventures, the author’s faux-interview of his heroes, and four black-and-white photos from the SundanceTV series.

No one currently working the field demonstrates more convincingly and joyously the deep affinity between pulp fiction and the American tall tale.

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-61696-191-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016


Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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