Though the mysteries come late in the story, smart, brisk writing and abundant historical color keep up interest until they...

SPQR VII: THE TRIBUNE’S CURSE

Caesar’s Gallic Wars drag on, but narrator/sleuth Decius Caecilius Metellus the Younger (SPQR VI: Nobody Loves a Centurion, 2001, etc.) couldn’t care less. Caesar has sent the young nobleman back home to Rome, where he plans to immerse himself in culture, canoodle with his new wife, Caesar’s niece Julia, and run for his first political office. His calm, and that of the city, is disrupted by the military plans of Crassus, Pompey and Caesar’s ambitious co-triumvir. Tensions are already high among the three; now Crassus’ eagerness to embark on this new campaign, an apparent challenge to militant Caesar, rouses public uneasiness. In the midst of his ceremonial departure, tribune Aetius Capito, a political enemy, puts a curse on Crassus and the city for sanctioning his expedition. This is bad enough, but Aetius uses “the Secret Name of Rome,” a word known only to oracles and suchlike, to make the curse stick. It falls to Decius to save the city by ferreting out the individual who gave Aetius the ammunition and incidentally treating the reader to a tour of ancient Rome’s tenderloin. Midway through his investigation, Aetius is found murdered, and the probe expands to the political class, enemies of Crassus and/or the triumvirate. Clear-eyed, tart-tongued Julia plays Nero Wolfe to Decius’ Archie Goodwin, staying home and sifting the information he gleans in his legwork.

Though the mysteries come late in the story, smart, brisk writing and abundant historical color keep up interest until they arrive.

Pub Date: March 12, 2003

ISBN: 0-312-30488-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Dunne/Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on...

MYSTIC RIVER

After five adventures for Boston shamus Patrick Kenzie and his off-again lover Angela Gennaro (Prayers for Rain, 1999, etc.), Lehane tries his hand at a crossover novel that’s as dark as any of Patrick’s cases.

Even the 1975 prologue is bleak. Sean Devine and Jimmy Marcus are playing, or fighting, outside Sean’s parents’ house in the Point neighborhood of East Buckingham when a car pulls up, one of the two men inside flashes a badge, and Sean and Jimmy’s friend Dave Boyle gets bundled inside, allegedly to be driven home to his mother for a scolding but actually to get kidnapped. Though Dave escapes after a few days, he never really outlives his ordeal, and 25 years later it’s Jimmy’s turn to join him in hell when his daughter Katie is shot and beaten to death in the wilds of Pen Park, and State Trooper Sean, just returned from suspension, gets assigned to the case. Sean knows that both Dave and Jimmy have been in more than their share of trouble in the past. And he’s got an especially close eye on Jimmy, whose marriage brought him close to the aptly named Savage family and who’s done hard time for robbery. It would be just like Jimmy, Sean knows, to ignore his friend’s official efforts and go after the killer himself. But Sean would be a lot more worried if he knew what Dave’s wife Celeste knows: that hours after catching sight of Katie in the last bar she visited on the night of her death, Dave staggered home covered with somebody else’s blood. Burrowing deep into his three sorry heroes and the hundred ties that bind them unbearably close, Lehane weaves such a spellbinding tale that it’s easy to overlook the ramshackle mystery behind it all.

An undisciplined but powerfully lacerating story, by an author who knows every block of the neighborhood and every hair on his characters’ heads.

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2001

ISBN: 0-688-16316-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000

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