An effective courtroom drama with generous dashes of pirate exoticism thrown in.

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PINELAND GOLD

A PINE ISLAND SOUND MYSTERY

A Florida-based legal thriller revolves around the rumor of buried treasure.

Mills (The Hooker, the Dancer, and the Nun, 2015, etc.) returns to his comfortable, engaging setting of Pine Island Sound for this taut and fanciful new installment of his mystery series. The story opens with state prosecutor Frank Powers and “seasoned” divorce lawyer Beth Mancini traveling to Pine Island’s Tarpon Lodge to attend the wedding of two friends and get in some sunny relaxation of their own. At the lodge, Beth glimpses 45-year-old, well-off widow Helen Hanover, who’s obsessed with the pirate history and lore of this region of Florida. Playing right into that passion is fishing guide Eddie Watson, whose friend has just recently cleared some nearby land and uncovered clues to a long-buried pirate treasure. Admittedly formidable logistics stand in their path: The treasure spot is located on a sacred Native American burial mound. When Eddie and Helen are later found brutally murdered on that spot, the novel’s plot moves smoothly from romantic getaway yarn to sensational murder trial, with Frank and Beth caught in the middle of it all. Mills is a mostly sedate storyteller; his tale has few shocks and no sharp turns. He draws his characters well, if simply, and he doles out the plot’s developments with no rhetorical fuss or flourish. The two main attractions of his new story play directly to his own strengths as a writer: He employs his long familiarity with the Pineland setting to evoke the sights and sounds of the place confidently, and he uses his long professional history as a prosecutor in the Florida legal system to make the extended courtroom scenes stand out for their verisimilitude. The result is an atmospheric Florida thriller in the vein of Randy Wayne White’s Doc Ford novels, with Mills delivering great swaths of exposition about the colorful history of the Pine Island Sound area along the way. The author balances this material adroitly with his courtroom give-and-take.

An effective courtroom drama with generous dashes of pirate exoticism thrown in.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-979598-73-6

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Pono Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2018

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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 MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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