THE SECRETS OF HARRY BRIGHT

Sidney Blackpool, another divorced, alcoholic Wambaugh homicide detective with the L.A.P.D. whose son Tommy died in a surfing accident a year ago, is plucked from his familiar environs and set down in windy, sand-blasted Mineral Springs, the scratchy underbelly of chi-chi Palm Springs, and promised a very cushy retirement job if he can uncover the likely murderer of multimillionaire Victor Watson's playboy son Jack, who was found burned to a crisp in the desert, with a bullet in his skull. After 17 months of no-leads, the Palm Springs P.D. draws only yawns on the case. But Victor Watson wants to know who his son's killer is. And he is counting on the bond of rage between fathers who have lost sons to push Blackpool to success. As ever in Wambaugh, every plot-turn occurs through a ton of sheer padding, albeit very engaging padding, a kind of relentlessly black-minded absurdism that replaces mere realism and logic. Blackpool's gaily roistering sidekick Otto Stringer thinks his buddy is an anhedonist, someone incurably unfun-loving. Their investigation involves them with the nearby Mineral Springs P.D., an outhouse outfit of nine dumbheads who are Keystone Kop screw-ups of the first water, among them overweight Chief Paco Pedroza, who is a sexist pig with jelly tits and a mustard yellow aloha shirt. These cartoon police clinkers were all hired into the Mineral Springs P.D. by Sergeant Harry Bright, the Chief's confidant and keeper of the secrets arising from their force's sublime ineptitude. But Blackpool and Stringer gradually discover certain irregularities about Harry Bright that cast a dark cloud over the man—who in any event has been in a coma for several months following a stroke and a heart attack. Oddly enough, Harry Bright has also lost a son—and is a drunk. "Well, you know how it is in police work. There's a guy or two at every station. Whiskey face, whiskey voice, whiskey eyes, but they always show up to work on time. Always have a shoeshine and a pressed uniform. Always do a job. That was Sergeant Bright." And therein also lies the essence of the secret of Harry Bright, the grieving alcoholic father who is now the pressed shell of duty and yet—having lost a son—is capable of forgiving and taking in the lost sons of the varied California police departments. Despite his black humor and sometimes out-loud funny moments, Wambaugh winds up with a fairly serious novel, with rich Christian symbolism in Harry Bright. The force of alcohol addiction and the essence of self deception in the disease are brought home strongly.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 1985

ISBN: 0553762877

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1985

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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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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