A fast, fulfilling read with plenty of twists.

READ REVIEW

THE TAILOR OF RIGA

An offbeat whodunit that will prompt readers to wonder: Did “it” actually happen?

In his fifth novel, Harries seems to blend elements of memoir and fiction as he tells the complex story of his ancestors, inspired by taking a genetic ancestry test. In a style that calls to mind the Sherlock Holmes tales, the author methodically excavates the roots of his family tree and uncovers a dark “family business.” His initial research focuses on his great-grandfather Abram Isakowitsch, who moved from his native Riga to the United Kingdom in 1888. Nothing so strange about that, but it’s not long until the events that Harries recounts start to stretch credulity. Isakowitsch changes his name to Abraham Harris, whom government documents identify as a tailor—an occupation he never held. Shockers start early on with the author’s discovery that his great-grandfather owned a pub where one of Jack the Ripper’s victims was last seen. Even more jaw-dropping details follow, as “Harris” was a former operative of the Okhrana, the Russian secret police, for whom he was a prized assassin (last known body count: 78). When panic began to grip London in 1888 over the Ripper murders, Britain’s prime minister, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, recruited Harris to track down and assassinate the infamous serial killer, according to the author’s research. The book slides between different time periods as Harris recounts adventures and misadventures of other ancestors. The chapter format makes it easy to follow the tangled timelines by listing the dates, locations, and cast of characters at the start of each. Later, the author learns, his mother’s great-aunt Mina Kapelus (a member of the Left SR Party) participated in a botched attempt to assassinate Lenin in 1918; in response, the Bolsheviks killed her and displayed her coffin on the street. Or did they? Harries teases readers with a subtitle that brands the book of “Dubious Veracity,” and he quips before the story begins, “The truth may be stranger than fiction, but it’s not as much fun. That is, of course, if you believe I’m not telling the truth.” Throughout, he displays consummate skill as a spinner of mysteries, and he recounts them all with a welcome and unexpected dash of humor.

A fast, fulfilling read with plenty of twists.

Pub Date: June 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-950628-08-7

Page Count: 307

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

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Slow moving and richly layered.

THE SEARCHER

A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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