Although the prose sounds like Sandford, the plotting is a letdown: The trail to the last act is rich in incident, but not...



Sandford, who seems determined to keep Lucas Davenport’s latest cases secret, allows him to be upstaged once more by his junior colleague Virgil Flowers, though this time there’s no great honor in star billing.

The Stillwater police call Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to the veterans’ memorial where the body of building inspector Bobby Sanderson has been deposited. He was shot twice with a .22 and found with a section of lemon in his mouth—all details that echo the recent death of title searcher Chuck Utecht in New Ulm. The two murders are clearly the work of the same killer, but who is he, and why has he taken such ritualistic care to incriminate himself by emphasizing the similarities between two crimes that ordinarily wouldn’t have been connected? More to the point, are these two crimes only the beginning? For readers new to this sort of fiction, Sandford helpfully provides brief conversations indicating that Chippewa Indian Ray Bunton and ex-cop John Wigge, a VP at a private security agency, had better watch their backs as well. Prompted by Lucas and driven night after sleepless night to assemble the facts, Virgil (Dark of the Moon, 2007, etc.) learns at length that all the targets on the kill list served together in Vietnam, where they shared a secret worth killing for nearly 40 years later. The suspects include Ralph Warren, Wigge’s sinister boss at that security firm; Professor Mead Sinclair, a lefty researcher on the Vietnam War who just might be in bed with the CIA; his half-Vietnamese daughter Mai, who makes her extracurricular interest in Virgil plain from the get-go.

Although the prose sounds like Sandford, the plotting is a letdown: The trail to the last act is rich in incident, but not original, urgent or compelling. On the other hand, the very last surprise, climaxing a turf war between the BCA and the Department of Homeland Security, is a honey.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-399-15527-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008

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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.


A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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