AN EXAGGERATED MURDER

A beautifully written postmodern novel of deduction that merrily, wittily blows up its genre’s conventions while at the same...

Three things to keep in mind about this book: Travel is far more enriching than arrival, detectives are essentially professional critics, and always be very careful when you decide to quit smoking.

Trident “Trike” Augustine is a very American, excruciatingly dysfunctional variant of the “consulting investigator” who’s been outsmarting criminals and out-thinking authority figures since the Victorian era. Yet even though this hip, dissolute Sherlock has managed to put away whole armies of fiends, thieves, psychos and grifters, Trike’s teeming brain has hit an immobilizing speed bump: the disappearance of a reclusive billionaire named Joyce. The only substantial clues are a large pool of blood and a secret compartment within Joyce’s mansion that the feds unaccountably seal off from further scrutiny by either Trike or the local cops. (By the way, it’s not clear, or particularly important, what city this is, though Cook, a first-time novelist, sells books in the Greater Boston region.) Trike can’t help but use such impediments as an excuse for pressing his inquiry. But the deeper he looks, the more confounded he becomes. There is, for instance, the matter of the dead pig that somehow shows up on Trike’s apartment floor in the dark of night, doing nothing but bleeding on his rug. The best, if tentative, conclusion that Trike and his two Watsons, a sassy painter named Lola and a circumspect ex-FBI agent named Max, can reach about the pig is that it’s one of several crass warnings to stay off the Joyce case. Which, this being a detective story, has the opposite effect on Trike. But the only thing that becomes clear about the novel's plot is that it’s somewhat less and considerably more than an average detective story. Rather, it’s a sustained inquiry into the nature of detecting itself—and into the process of writing. Keep in mind the millionaire’s name and the book’s quicksilver references to Ulysses—and to Edgar Allan Poe’s genre-defining mystery tale “The Purloined Letter.” Such literary gamesmanship may exasperate the traditional mystery lover, but the writing throughout is so crystalline, the dialogue so acerbically funny and the characters so engaging as to make the pages seem as though they’re turning themselves.

A beautifully written postmodern novel of deduction that merrily, wittily blows up its genre’s conventions while at the same time re-energizing possibilities for the 21st-century detective story.

Pub Date: March 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61219-427-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Melville House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

BADLANDS

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

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 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

Close Quickview