The elegant writing, complex characters, and surprising conclusion of Thomas’ second (The English Boys, 2016) all add up to...

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PENHALE WOOD

A cold case turns hot enough to burn lives to the ground.

DCI Robert McIntyre has come from the Cornwall town of Truro to spend Christmas with his brother’s family in London. Still depressed over the departure of his lover, Alison Kendall, whose first novel has become a bestseller, he finds his brother's house empty—David and his family have been called away—and is startled when Iris Flynn shows up on the doorstep in the middle of the night saying she's flown halfway around the world to help him find her daughter’s killer. The Flynns were living in Truro when their eldest daughter, Sophie, disappeared along with her nanny, Karen Peterson, more than a year earlier. Sophie's body was found in the river the next day, and Karen hasn't been seen since. Before this traumatic episode, Iris and Nick, her Australian husband, had led a peripatetic existence, moving from country to country: "It's Nick," Iris says. "The world is too small for him." It was in Oregon, their last stop before Britain, that they met Karen, who asked if she could come with them and help out with the kids. Now, unable to recover from Sophie’s death, Iris has left Nick and their two other daughters with her sister in Australia in a desperate bid to find the truth. The only new clue the police have is a psychic who claims to have had a vision of Karen in London. The police artist makes a sketch based on the psychic's description that Iris doesn’t think looks like Karen, but after watching hours of CCTV she picks her former nanny out of the crowd boarding a London train. The passport service, however, finds no record of a Karen Peterson ever having entered the U.K. Even though Iris has an estranged mother and brother in Cornwall, she winds up staying with McIntyre when they return to Truro; he feels desperately sorry for the woman whose life has been torn apart and finds her company comforting in his loneliness. Unable to forget Alison, he's taken aback when the case takes a strange and unsettling turn and involves his former love in a way he cannot ignore no matter how painful the results. At length more clues emerge, and when Iris does go to see her mother, a chance encounter brings the case to disconcerting new life.

The elegant writing, complex characters, and surprising conclusion of Thomas’ second (The English Boys, 2016) all add up to a fine mystery that will appeal to readers of Catriona McPherson’s psychological thrillers.

Pub Date: July 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7387-5250-1

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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