Anyone interested in mysteries and books and humor—and who isn't?—will enjoy Flanders' latest delightful novel.

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A HOWL OF WOLVES

From the Sam Clair series , Vol. 4

Theater people may be superstitious, but even they don't expect to find the director hanging from the rafters on opening night—in the middle of the play.

London book editor Samantha "Sam" Clair is trying to be a supportive friend when she takes her boyfriend, Scotland Yard detective Jake Field, to see a play called The Spanish Tragedy, even though Jake isn't thrilled about an evening's entertainment so full of murder. Her upstairs neighbor Kay is "only playing the lead actress's maid, but, as she said cheerfully, she got to die in a pool of blood onstage." Kay's 6-year-old son, Bim, also has a small part, and Sam certainly doesn't want to miss that. The climax of the play is supposed to be a body hanging from the rafters, so at first the audience doesn't realize the body is real—it's Campbell Davison, the director, and not just a dummy made up to look like him. Jake quickly gets involved in the police investigation, which means, of course, that Sam is pulled between trying to get information out of him and downplaying her own interest so he won't clam up. Soon she and her mother, Helena, an indefatigable solicitor, are searching through archives and waylaying lawyers to find out more about various persons of interest while Sam manages to hold down her job and even convince her firm's recalcitrant sales director to feature one of her authors—that most overlooked of creatures, a middle-aged woman—at their upcoming sales conference. In previous installments, Flanders (A Cast of Vultures, 2017, etc.) used Sam's job as a point of entry to the fashion industry and the art scene, and this peek behind the scenes of the theater world is equally entertaining. There are several people with plausible motives—the costume designer who seems to be using stolen designs, the investor who keeps turning up in unexpected places—but, as usual, the main attraction is Sam's wry, skeptical voice, which manages to inject humor into something as prosaic as trying to interpret a nine-word text from Helena: "Meeting Nigel for breakfast. 7, at St. Paul's café." What's funny about that? Read it and see.

Anyone interested in mysteries and books and humor—and who isn't?—will enjoy Flanders' latest delightful novel.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-08783-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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