Once Bude’s franchise hero arrives, the elaborately facetious but essentially toothless satire of the first half gives way...

DEATH MAKES A PROPHET

Bude, the pen name of Ernest Carpenter Elmore (1901-57), juices this 1947 cozy by spending more than half the story setting the stage for a double murder whose victims are both active in a fantastical cult that’s taken root in the English village of Welworth.

The two powers behind the Children of Osiris, popularly known by the acronym Coo, are Eustace Mildmann, a widowed ex-bookseller whose fascination with early Egyptian religion launched Cooism, and Alicia Hagge-Smith, the wealthy widow whose capacious purse has installed Eustace as High Prophet and turned Cooism into a veritable cash machine. Despite their closeness, they don’t see eye to eye about everything. Eustace doesn’t share Mrs. Hagge-Smith’s infatuation with Peta Penpeti, whose assiduous devotion to the cult has made him Eustace’s successor-designate. And he’s slow to warm to his backer’s enthusiastic suggestion that they organize a conference that ends up drawing 600 of the faithful to Welworth, where they sleep in tents and talk a lot of rubbish Bude (The Lake District Murder, 2016, etc.) is too solicitous to let his readers overhear. Instead, he focuses on rivalries among the tight cliques that form around Penelope Parker, the Penpeti booster Eustace hopelessly adores; Hansford Boot, the Eustace booster who’s being blackmailed over some shameful secret in his past; and Denise Blake, Mrs. Hagge-Smith’s secretary, whom Eustace’s son, Terence, would love to marry despite his father’s sputtering objections. The nonfatal shooting of Sidney Arkwright, the under-chauffeur Mrs. Hagge-Smith has assigned Eustace, is only a prelude to a double poisoning that brings Inspector Meredith down from Scotland Yard to solve a case whose mysteries seem to multiply faster than rabbits.

Once Bude’s franchise hero arrives, the elaborately facetious but essentially toothless satire of the first half gives way to the head-scratching complications of the second. Pick your poison: although neither kind of pleasure is sustained all the way through, they’re both amply in evidence.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 1-4642-0902-2

Page Count: 286

Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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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