The highlights of the third in this marvelous and often amusing series (A Bed of Scorpions, 2016, etc.) are neighborhood...

A CAST OF VULTURES

From the Sam Clair series , Vol. 3

A missing neighbor, a series of fires, and turmoil at work are just the start of Samantha Clair’s problems.

A hangover has put Sam, a Canadian-born book publisher living in North London, in a foul mood. But she can’t say no to her elderly friend Viv when she asks for help in learning whether her friend Dennis, who lives upstairs from her in a council flat, is missing or perhaps lying dead on his floor, since no one's seen him in days. A search of the flat reveals no body and no reason for Dennis to be missing, and the police are not much interested. So Sam goes into sleuthing mode over the objections of her CID boyfriend, Jake. The next disaster to strike the neighborhood is a fire that destroys a house that sheltered several squatters who've all lived there for years: Mo and Dan and their son; electrician Mike; and gardener Steve. Jake, who isn’t up on the local gossip, is not pleased to hear about the squatters and even less pleased when Sam decides to let Steve use her front yard to grow veggies. When Dennis is found dead at the fire scene, Sam learns that although he worked for the local council, he also ran an after-school teen club. Because a large amount of cash was found in his flat, the working theory is that he was a drug dealer using neighborhood teens to help deliver his wares. At Sam’s publishing house, a team of management consultants who lack even basic knowledge of the business is driving everyone crazy, and at home, Sam and Jake continue to bicker over the squatters. Although Sam thinks she’s discovered little that will help solve the neighborhood’s problems, a series of scary incidents forces her to consider what she really does know.

The highlights of the third in this marvelous and often amusing series (A Bed of Scorpions, 2016, etc.) are neighborhood characters who are a basket of enjoyables and a complex and brainy heroine.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-08782-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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

BADLANDS

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 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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