The 17 down-home recipes contributed by Lansdale’s daughter, Kasey, many of them as chatty as the stories, are a bonus.

OF MICE AND MINESTRONE

Five stories, four of them new, filling in more of the early years of that imperishable East Texas duo, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine.

Kathleen Kent’s brief introduction suggests that the running theme here is “Kindness and Cruelty.” An even more precise motto might be “Violence Is Inevitable,” since Lansdale consistently treats the often lethal outbursts of his characters in disarmingly matter-of-fact terms, as if the boys couldn’t help it. Three of the stories present Hap (white, straight, tough, sentimental) in the days before he met Leonard (black, gay, tougher, chip on shoulder), and two of them barely count as stories: “The Kitchen” is a retrospective valentine to the simple pleasures of a family visit to Hap’s grandmother, and “The Sabine Was High” allows the pair to swap anecdotes about Hap’s stint in prison and Leonard’s hitch in Vietnam after Hap meets the bus bringing Leonard home. In between, the title story shows Hap’s futile attempts to rescue a stranger named Minnie from the husband who batters her, tracks her down to her sister’s, and maybe kills her; “The Watering Shed,” the sole reprint, tracks the progress from Hap and Leonard’s maiden voyage to a local bar to a suddenly ugly, race-tinged quarrel that leaves two men dead; and “Sparring Partner,” the longest and best of the lot, follows the two friends to the perfect milieu, the boxing ring, where they hire out as punching bags for allegedly more dangerous opponents and where ritualized violence is subject to rules that have to be followed unless they don’t. The dialogue throughout is worth the price of admission, not as stylized as Elmore Leonard’s but laden with the same irresistible combination of relaxed badinage and playful threats that sometimes spiral into serious consequences while still remaining playful.

The 17 down-home recipes contributed by Lansdale’s daughter, Kasey, many of them as chatty as the stories, are a bonus.

Pub Date: May 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61696-323-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Tachyon

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a...

PIECES OF HER

A plain-Jane daughter’s 31st birthday celebration explodes into a nightmare within a nightmare in Slaughter’s latest stand-alone.

Andrea Oliver’s always felt inferior to her parents. Her father, Gordon Oliver, is a trusts and estates attorney; her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist. Andy herself has never aspired to any career goal higher than serving as an assistant to someone important. Even when she left Belle Isle, Georgia, for the Big Apple, she got nowhere, and she was only too eager to return home when her mother announced three years ago that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As the two women mark Andy’s birthday by sharing lunch in a mall cafe, a crazed shooter opens fire on a mother-and-daughter pair who’ve stopped to greet Laura, and Andy’s life changes in an instant. Or rather two instants, the first when the shots ring out and the second when Laura, after inviting the killer to shoot her next, coolly and dispassionately dispatches him. It takes the dazed Andy hours to realize that her mother’s not at all who she seems to be, and by the time she’s ready to accept the fact that Laura Oliver is a woman with a past, that past is already racing to catch up with both mother and daughter. Cutting back and forth between Andy’s harrowing flight to nowhere after Laura pushes her out of her home and a backstory 30 years earlier involving the Army of the Changing World, a cell of amateur terrorists determined to strike a mortal blow against greedy capitalists and, it eventually turns out, each other as well, Slaughter (The Good Daughter, 2017, etc.) never abates her trademark intensity, and fans will feel that the story is pumping adrenalin directly into their bloodstreams. Long before the end, though, the impostures, secret identities, hidden motives, and double-crosses will have piled up past the point of no return, leaving the tale to run on adrenalin alone.

Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a season ticket on a ride that never lets you off.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243027-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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