Yes, it’s too long, resulting in a certain noticeable softness around the middle, but time and place are so vividly evoked,...

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STARDUST

Kanon’s atmospheric, character-driven latest (Alibi, 2005, etc.) comes within a whisker of being flawless.

Hollywood, 1945: a place where an observer as shrewd as Ben Collier could easily conclude, “Nothing can lie like a smile.” Lots of smilers, lots of lies, lots of reasons for Ben not to believe that his brother Danny’s death was either a suicide or an accident, though both have been put forward as explanations. Still in uniform, Signal Corps officer Ben arrives in Hollywood on assignment to make a Nazi death-camp documentary for the army. He’ll work under the auspices of Continental Films and Sol Lasner, its pepper-pot founder and boss. But there’s a subtext, of course. In Germany, where they were boys, Ben adored his charismatic older brother. Danny’s charm, unflagging energy and zest for life were givens in the Kohler household. Suicide? Never! Accident? Well, perhaps, but Ben can’t be convinced of its likelihood. Though circumstances, mostly those attendant on being a Jew under Hitler, uprooted and eventually separated them, the brothers had remained in touch as best they could, while leading far-flung and disparate lives: Ben a soldier, Danny a movie producer. A movie producer with enigmatic sides to him, Ben discovers as his investigation intensifies. There’s the mystery surrounding his role as husband, for instance, to the beautiful Liesl, who will come to loom large in Ben’s own life. There are the unsettling ways Danny seems connected to the infamous Congressional Red-baiting that’s breaking so many careers and hearts now that the Russians are no longer U.S. allies. His brother had bitter enemies, Ben soon realizes. Which one was a murderer?

Yes, it’s too long, resulting in a certain noticeable softness around the middle, but time and place are so vividly evoked, and the writing is so strong, that most readers will be of a mind to forgive.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4391-5614-8

Page Count: 506

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2009

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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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Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

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THE BOY FROM THE WOODS

Coben’s latest darkest-suburbs thriller sets a decidedly offbeat detective on the trail of a crime with overtones unmistakably redolent of once and future presidential elections.

Wilde is called Wilde because nobody’s known his real name from the moment a pair of hikers found him foraging for himself in Ramapo Mountain State Forest 24 years ago. Now over 40, he’s had experience as both a lost boy and a private investigator. That makes him an obvious person to help when his godson, Sweet Water High School student Matthew Crimstein, expresses concern to his grandmother, attorney Hester Crimstein, that his bullied classmate Naomi Pine has gone missing. Matthew doesn’t really want anyone to help. He doesn’t even want anyone to notice his agitation. But Hester, taking the time from her criminal defense of financial consultant Simon Greene (Run Away, 2019) to worm the details out of him, asks Wilde to lend a hand, and sure enough, Wilde, unearthing an unsavory backstory that links Naomi to bullying classmate Crash Maynard, whose TV producer father, Dash Maynard, is close friends with reality TV star–turned–presidential hopeful Rusty Eggers, finds Naomi hale and hearty. Everything’s hunky-dory for one week, and then she disappears again. And this time, so does Crash after a brief visit to Matthew in which he tearfully confesses his guilt about the bad stuff he did to Naomi. This second disappearance veers into more obviously criminal territory with the arrival of a ransom note that demands, not money, but the allegedly incriminating videotapes of Rusty Eggers that Dash and Delia Maynard have had squirreled away for 30 years. The tapes link Rusty to a forgotten and forgettable homicide and add a paranoid new ripped-from-the-headlines dimension to the author’s formidable range. Readers who can tune out all the subplots will find the kidnappers easy to spot, but Coben finds room for three climactic surprises, one of them a honey.

Now that Coben’s added politics to his heady brew, expect sex and religion to join the mix.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4814-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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