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

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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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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