Minor blemishes aside, this puppy tells a waggly tale the reader is happy to follow down the roughest paths.

RUSTY PUPPY

A woman's plea to find her son's murderer sets the stage for the latest Hap and Leonard mystery.

When an older black woman engages Hap and Leonard to find out who murdered her son, her plea for them to take her case ends with a bombshell: she believes that the local police are the killers. Not surprisingly, Hap and Leonard soon run afoul of the corrupt police ruling over a scruffy Texas town. But considering the two have a talent for stirring up trouble, they also incur the enmity of a group of bad-news project kids, some local drug dealers, the operators of an illegal fight club, a corrupt lawyer, and generally everyone they run into. The best of the supporting characters is named Reba, a young black girl whom Leonard refers to as a vampire midget and whose dialogue is a consistently delightful work of foulmouthed art. (Imagine Wanda Sykes in Our Gang as directed and written by Quentin Tarantino.) The pleasure of any Hap and Leonard mystery is the yin-yang of the two heroes: white/black, straight/gay, liberal/conservative, easygoing/hair-trigger temper. Without making any brotherhood speeches, the books are rough-hewn fables of tolerance in action. Part of the reason it all goes down without any kind of "Kumbaya" ickiness is that Lansdale (Honky Tonk Samurai, 2016, etc.) writes such good smart-ass repartee. He also, though, in book after book, reaches a point where he takes the violence too far and breaks faith with the reader (it was a problem in the first season of the Hap and Leonard TV series as well), including here a rape dealt out to a character we've become fond of and a final brutal fistfight that goes on for too long.

Minor blemishes aside, this puppy tells a waggly tale the reader is happy to follow down the roughest paths.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-31156-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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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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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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