It's easy to see why this series is so popular, blending as it does the hard-boiled social observations of noir fiction with...

WHITE RIVER BURNING

Once again, the bucolic upstate retirement of NYPD homicide ace Dave Gurney is disrupted by a grisly murder spree.

In the sixth installment of this series of mystery-thrillers by ex-adman Verdon (Wolf Lake, 2016, etc.), the specter of racial tension comes to roost near the woodsy farmhouse in Walnut Crossing, New York, that Gurney and his wife call home. A petty-minded district attorney with big-ticket ambitions wants Gurney to look into the shooting death of a police officer in the nearby town of White River. Because the officer was white and the incident took place at a demonstration marking the one-year anniversary of a police shooting of an unarmed black motorist, Gurney must deploy all his urbane discretion, implacable concentration, and innate logic to work his way through thickets of bad faith and ill will. Much of the latter comes from White River’s belligerent police chief, who is eager to pin the murder of his patrolman on two leaders of the demonstration’s organizer, the Black Defense Alliance. But that scenario sinks when those two suspects are found naked, branded, and beaten to death on a local playground. From that point forward, nothing remains certain in Gurney’s inquiry as more bodies pile up, each of them disposed more brutally—and diabolically. With the determination and craftiness that in his previous life won him the “supercop” designation, Gurney methodically tries to connect each murder to the other. All he can count on for reliable backup are cool-headed White River policeman Mark Torres and short-fused but bombastically-effective private investigator Jack Hardwick, a holdover from previous novels. And there’s his forbearing wife, Madeleine, who at one point deep into the investigation observes of her husband: “You’re good at assembling bits of information and seeing a pattern in them. But I think sometimes you enjoy the intellectual process so much you don’t like to rush it.” That could also be said of Gurney’s creator, whose systematic approach to his material may tempt his readers to feel the need to push things along at times.

It's easy to see why this series is so popular, blending as it does the hard-boiled social observations of noir fiction with the inscrutable pleasures of classic “whodunit” puzzle-solving.

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-063-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

more