Instead of attempting to link the drastically different halves of this tale, Shepphird seems to revel in the contrast...



Is it harder to dodge the weapons of death aimed by an obsessive archer or to wrap up a bare-bones TV movie on time and under budget? Shepphird (Beware the Shill, 2016, etc.) presents enough evidence on both sides to let you make the call.

Tapped by executive producer Sam Carver to replace director Chris Sanderson in a Little House on the Prairie knockoff for aging TV actress Tami Romans, Eddie Lyons knows he’ll say yes even before reading the script because it’s better to be working than not. Or maybe it isn’t, as he finds when he arrives for the two-week shoot at Crescent Movie Ranch, a spot so authentic that there’s no cellphone reception. Apart from Tami, whose three personal assistants soak up disproportionate amounts of the budget and real estate, the rest of the talent, from character actor Tom Birch to closeted gay cinematographer Giovanni to animal wranglers Jimmy and Lucky, are bottom feeders better known for their cut-rate reliability and efficiency than their star power. The shoot reunites Eddie with Sheila, an assistant cinematographer he slept with once in a drunken fling and who’s now clearly embarrassed that they’ve been thrown together again. Tami demands costly rewrites that Eddie knows will never get approved; Tom demands to wear an inappropriate cowboy hat that will make his face harder to light. Just when you’ve settled in for an agreeable comedy of low-budget filmmaking, Jimmy’s corpse turns up in a stagecoach with an arrow protruding from his eye. Nor is this just one more problem among many in the production, for virtually every person involved in the shoot will soon become a target in a shoot of quite a different sort.

Instead of attempting to link the drastically different halves of this tale, Shepphird seems to revel in the contrast between them. Like-minded readers will get two stories for the price of one; others may be more wary.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5384-6920-0

Page Count: 238

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


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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