Although this isn’t the best of Keller’s deeply nuanced, beautifully written examinations of life and death in hardscrabble...

SORROW ROAD

A deadly accident in 1938 West Virginia is the impetus for several modern murders.

Bell Elkins ditched her ambitious husband and high-stress job to become the prosecutor in Raythune County, where she grew up in unhappy circumstances. Her high-powered law school classmate Darlene Strayer also grew up in Appalachia but then stayed away, returning only to visit her father and finally place him in the Alzheimer’s unit of Thornapple Terrace in neighboring Muth County. Although Harmon Strayer was almost 90, Darlene has doubts that he and two other patients died naturally, and she asks Bell to look into their deaths. Bell asks her assistant, Rhonda Lovejoy, who has friends and relatives everywhere, to do some gentle probing. Bell’s own life is in disarray. She’s considering how to handle her love affair with a much younger man when her daughter Carla suddenly calls to say that she’s coming home in the middle of a snowstorm. When Darlene is killed on her way home in the same snowstorm, Bell’s suspicions are inflamed. Both Bell and Carla still suffer from traumatic incidents in their pasts that underlie their current problems. Carla’s already lined up a job interviewing older members of the area for a library project, and Bell doesn’t push her to discuss why she’s suddenly come home. Impetuous Carla accidentally gets involved in the investigation, putting herself and others in danger. When a worker at Thornapple Terrace is murdered along with her best friend, Bell suspects another connection, though she doesn’t yet know about the fraught relationship between Harmon and his two childhood friends or the secret they’ve kept for years.

Although this isn’t the best of Keller’s deeply nuanced, beautifully written examinations of life and death in hardscrabble coal country (Last Ragged Breath, 2015, etc.), its exploration of the ravages of Alzheimer’s is deeply moving.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-08958-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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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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