A tragicomic salute to both the recuperative powers of its has-been hero and the remarkable career of its nonpareil author.

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AGENT RUNNING IN THE FIELD

Now that he’s revisited and deepened the tissue of double-crosses that put him on the map with George Smiley, le Carré (A Legacy of Spies, 2017, etc.), evergreen at 87, turns to an equally hapless new hero in the age of Trump and Brexit.

“I’m a field man,” says Nat, a Secret Intelligence Service agent, “not a desk jockey, not a social carer.” Convinced at 47 that his years running spies throughout Europe are over, he accepts one last assignment as the only alternative to being put out to pasture for good: assuming command of Haven, the London substation he describes to his unenthusiastic wife, human rights lawyer Prudence, as “a Mickey Mouse outfit” where his job will be “either to get it on its feet or speed it on its way to the graveyard.” No sooner has Nat sunk into this forgettable ambit than three disquieting developments arise. Florence, a probationer who’s his nominal second-in-command, angrily quits over the unexplained cancellation of a project she’s designed, spearheaded, and pitched to the powers that be. Sergei Kusnetsev, a Russian defector who’s become a sleeper agent for Her Majesty’s Government, is contacted by Anastasia, a Russian agent who presumably either wants to put him to work, if she trusts him, or to expose him, if she doesn’t. And Ed Shannon, the much-younger researcher who joined Nat’s athletic club in order to play badminton with him and vent about the folly of Brexit and the rise of neo-Nazism in the States, suddenly appears in an alarming new role. Seeing the world as he knows it—not the new world order or the special relationship, but his own faded patch of it—threatened from every corner, Nat, determined to assert himself one last time, hatches a rickety plan to keep the pot from boiling over.

A tragicomic salute to both the recuperative powers of its has-been hero and the remarkable career of its nonpareil author.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7887-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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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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