As ambitious as Spencer-Fleming’s best as long as you don’t expect a tidy whodunit.


The ninth case for Millers Kill Police Chief Russell Van Alstyne and his wife, Rev. Clare Fergusson, is actually three cases that span more than 60 years.

A young woman in a party dress is found dead out in the middle of McEachron Hill Road. Though there’s not a mark on her, everyone on the Millers Kill force instantly suspects murder because that’s the same spot where two similarly dressed women were found dead in 1952 and 1972. Neither earlier case was ever solved. In fact, the closest thing to a suspect in the 1972 case was Russ Van Alstyne, having some serious readjustment issues after his tour in Vietnam. Being on the other side of the investigation doesn’t feel any more comfortable for Russ, who’s already struggling to help Clare cope with Ethan, their infant son; manage the absence of Officer Kevin Flynn, whose new job with the Syracuse Police Department involves some undercover work uncomfortably close to his former hometown; and face down the continuing threat to shut down his department and leave the New York State Police responsible for Millers Kill’s impressive slate of homicides (Through the Evil Days, 2013, etc.). For her part, Clare is pressed to welcome a new intern, Joni Langevoort, a seminary student from Manhattan who turns out to be transgender. Though Joni’s mother is warmly supportive of her daughter’s transition, just the proximity of the family’s wealth and power will ring alarm bells for fans of the series who join Russ and his fragile department in wondering whether they’re dealing with copycat crimes or no crimes at all—or whether the same person really could have murdered all three of those young women between 1952 and the present. The narrative hopscotches nimbly but not very revealingly among the three time periods right through the unsatisfying, early-arriving solution, which doesn’t slow down the continuing complications in all three time frames that reveal where the author’s heart really lies.

As ambitious as Spencer-Fleming’s best as long as you don’t expect a tidy whodunit.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-312-60685-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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

Did you like this book?

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


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

Did you like this book?