Not every story will be to every taste, but the average is high enough to satisfy readers of all genders.

CUTTING EDGE

“Is there a distinctive female noir?” asks Oates (The Pursuit, 2019, etc.) in her introduction. This collection may not settle that question, but it goes a long way toward supplying candidates for an emerging canon.

There are 15 stories here, all but one of them new, and half a dozen new poems. From Aimee Bender’s enigmatic “Firetown,” in which a female private eye searches for a missing husband and cat on behalf of a client whose motives are even more mysterious than the disappearance, to Cassandra Khaw’s fablelike “Mothers, We Dream,” in which the man who’s miraculously survived a shipwreck finds himself hemmed in by both his female interrogator and his female associates, these stories show empowered women either running roughshod over men or ignoring them entirely. Even the heroines of Livia Llewellyn’s “One of These Nights,” S.J. Rozan’s “A History of the World in Five Objects,” S.A. Solomon’s “Impala,” and Sheila Kohler’s “Miss Martin,” all victims of abusive men, find unexpected ways to transform their victimhood into violent agency. Lisa Lim’s heavily illustrated “The Hunger” dramatizes a savage mode of female mourning; Edwidge Danticat’s “Please Translate,” first published in 2014, collects 41 frantic phone messages from a woman to the husband who’s run off with their son; Margaret Atwood’s six poems include meditations on female werewolves and the maternal side of the Sirens; Oates’ own “Assassin” follows a woman who methodically hatches and executes a plan to decapitate the prime minister. The women here are equally comfortable—that is, equally disturbing—when they’re cast as reluctant detectives, as in Steph Cha’s “Thief,” witnesses to possible crimes, as in Elizabeth McCracken’s “An Early Specimen,” accused murderers, as in Valerie Martin’s “Il Grifone,” or potential healers, as in Lucy Taylor’s “Too Many Lunatics” and Jennifer Morales’ “The Boy Without a Bike.” The punchline of the one story with a male lead, Bernice L. McFadden’s “OBF, Inc.,” entirely justifies its outlier status.

Not every story will be to every taste, but the average is high enough to satisfy readers of all genders.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61775-762-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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