As usual, there are lots of moves by both good guys and bad, but this time the moves seem old and forced.

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PHANTOM PREY

Lucas Davenport goes after a clever, ruthless killer hiding in plain sight.

Widowed heiress Alyssa Austin, a former athlete who owns a string of athletic clubs, comes home one night to find her daughter Frances missing, with bloody signs of foul play. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension soon learns that Frances, a Goth girl who inherited $2 million from her father, withdrew $50,000 from her bank account recently. Where did Frances and the money go? While Lucas and his teammates try to track the cash or any goods or services Frances might have purchased, more bodies pile up: a bartender friend of Frances, a buddy of his who works at a liquor store, a Goth realtor. Lucas doesn’t know that these aren’t victims of Frances’s killer but of an unlikely pair bent on avenging Frances: a spectral Goth who calls herself Fairy and Loren, her lover and confederate—their partnership is perhaps a bit too indebted to the felonious duo of Invisible Prey (2007). Sandford enlivens the crosscutting between cops and killers by giving Lucas another job: staking out pregnant Heather Toms while she waits for her husband, dangerous drug dealer Siggy Toms, to come back from Florida for her. This second gig would be a lot more tedious if Heather didn’t keep changing her clothes without bothering to lower the blinds. Of the many obstacles that keep Frances’s murder open, the most interesting is the news that her avenger is a figure close to the investigation who can disperse disinformation and still pass unsuspected among the authorities. The use of multiple-personality disorder to explain away murderous motives is both gratuitous and unconvincing, and it’s no surprise when the most exciting sequence is provided by the Heather Toms subplot.

As usual, there are lots of moves by both good guys and bad, but this time the moves seem old and forced.

Pub Date: May 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-399-15500-0

Page Count: 410

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2008

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

THE SILENT PATIENT

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.

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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