A whodunit that starts off with an intriguing premise but makes its way to an unsatisfying conclusion.


The Monteverdi Manuscript

From the A Hugo Miller Mystery series

A mystery novel from Allen (Rocky Point Road, 2016, etc.), set in late-1990s New York City, about the death of a famous harpsichordist.

Hugo Miller is a middle-aged New Yorker who works in public relations, and who’s successful enough to have an apartment right in Times Square. Fred Glamorgan, a music professor at UCLA and an old friend of Hugo’s, comes into town to visit and the two go out for a night at the Metropolitan Opera. Before the show, they visit one of Fred’s friends, the well-known harpsichordist Hubert Fulmer, who offers Hugo a hit of hashish. From there, things get hazy: the hash is spiked, leading to Hugo getting kicked out of the opera for appearing drop-dead drunk, and, more ominously, causing Hubert to jump out of his apartment’s window to his death. Or was he pushed? That’s the mystery that Hugo attempts to solve, driven by the fact that he, too, could’ve easily met the same end. Assisting him in this endeavor are his friend Ruth Jensen and his roommate Carlos, an ex-cop. Mike di Saronno, the detective assigned to the case, is also on hand to give official assistance to the three amateur sleuths. As they start to piece together the events of Hubert’s fatal night, the possible murder seems linked to a lost manuscript of an opera by the 17th-century Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi, which may or may not exist, and which Hubert may or may not have had in his possession. More worryingly, Hugo starts noticing that people are following him around the city, suggesting that more sinister forces may be involved in the search. Things get even stranger—and more dangerous—as Hugo investigates further. Allen certainly appears to have a love for Manhattan and its environs, as he adoringly writes of the many buildings and restaurants that his characters visit. Sometimes, though, he gets bogged down in details—recounting exactly what Hugo eats at every stop, for instance, or the many benefits of first-class air travel. Hugo narrates the story in a light, easygoing way, but without much urgency, which deflates the intrigue of the plot; as a result, the stakes never seem to be that high. Hugo’s fluid sexuality—he’s a divorced father who also has an eye for men—is the most engaging part of his character, and the story shows some heart when this element becomes more central to the plot. However, it’s not quite enough to save this meandering mystery.

A whodunit that starts off with an intriguing premise but makes its way to an unsatisfying conclusion.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5390-5168-8

Page Count: 278

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2016

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One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

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Once again, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett gets mixed up in a killing whose principal suspect is his old friend Nate Romanowski, whose attempts to live off the grid keep breaking down in a series of felony charges.

If Judge Hewitt hadn’t bent over to pick up a spoon that had fallen from his dinner table, the sniper set up nearly a mile from his house in the gated community of the Eagle Mountain Club would have ended his life. As it was, the victim was Sue Hewitt, leaving the judge alive and free to rail and threaten anyone he suspected of the shooting. Incoming Twelve Sleep County Sheriff Brendan Kapelow’s interest in using the case to promote his political ambitions and the judge’s inability to see further than his nose make them the perfect targets for a frame-up of Nate, who just wants to be left alone in the middle of nowhere to train his falcons and help his bride, Liv Brannon, raise their baby, Kestrel. Nor are the sniper, the sheriff, and the judge Nate’s only enemies. Orlando Panfile has been sent to Wyoming by the Sinaloan drug cartel to avenge the deaths of the four assassins whose careers Nate and Joe ended last time out (Wolf Pack, 2019). So it’s up to Joe, with some timely data from his librarian wife, Marybeth, to hire a lawyer for Nate, make sure he doesn’t bust out of jail before his trial, identify the real sniper, who continues to take an active role in the proceedings, and somehow protect him from a killer who regards Nate’s arrest as an unwelcome complication. That’s quite a tall order for someone who can’t shoot straight, who keeps wrecking his state-issued vehicles, and whose appalling mother-in-law, Missy Vankeuren Hand, has returned from her latest European jaunt to suck up all the oxygen in Twelve Sleep County to hustle some illegal drugs for her cancer-stricken sixth husband. But fans of this outstanding series will know better than to place their money against Joe.

One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53823-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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