A wonderful corrective for your pandemic-induced cabin fever. Yes, things could be much, much worse.

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LADY JAIL

Farrow’s brutal take on the locked-room mystery presents a murder committed inside a secure group ward in the Joliette Institution for Women near Montreal in 1994.

Lady Jail doesn’t confine its residents in separate cells but parcels them out in group quarters, like the one in which eight women doing time together suddenly find their number abruptly reduced to seven. Someone has strangled Florence, who’s locked up for throwing acid in a rival’s face, in the group bathroom using a length of wire that's been smuggled in. The killer is clearly one of the other prisoners—senior inmate Doi, who attacked her daughter with a hatchet; Malka, the next oldest, who poisoned her husband; Temple, who smuggles guns for the mob; Rozlynn, who celebrated her 18th birthday by killing her father; Courtney, who stabbed her best friend to death when she caught her flirting; her inseparable pal, Jodi, who shot a man during her boyfriend’s convenience-store robbery; and newcomer Abigail, an embezzler who’s still hiding the millions she stole—unless it’s really correctional officer Isaure Dabrezil, who’s working at Lady Jail during her yearlong suspension from the Sûreté du Québec. The job of figuring out whodunit is given to DS Émile Cinq-Mars, of the Montreal Police Service fraud squad, because he arrested Abi and because Dabrezil’s presence would render any SQ investigation problematic. Farrow keeps the story’s development as intense as the claustrophobic setting until he’s ready to unleash a bravura, hyperextended denouement.

A wonderful corrective for your pandemic-induced cabin fever. Yes, things could be much, much worse.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Slow moving and richly layered.

THE SEARCHER

A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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