An engaging, snaking, and spirit-tinged murder tale about obsession and control.

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An FBI agent becomes embroiled with a magnetic rock musician in this crime novel.

Boston, 1992. Special Agent Peter Morrow is not winning any awards at the FBI. He only applied for the job as a joke in the first place, and he has trouble hiding his disdain for his bosses, co-workers, and some of the victims he works with. After being removed from the missing persons unit for punching a social worker in the jaw, Pete is given a new assignment. It seems an Army private stationed in Rome, New York, may be dealing heroin for the Utica mob. But when Pete gets to the Army base, he learns from the commander that the supposed dealer, Claude Hopner, is AWOL. Pete hangs around anyway to question the members of Black Dog, the Canadian rock band that happens to be playing a gig at the base that night—he suspects they are in fact a cog in the drug ring since they seem to know Hopner. Pete’s rewarded with a major development in the case: After the show, the base commander (another potential cog) is found brutally murdered, with a note affixed to the body referencing “Hopner’s sardines.” The story gets even weirder when it turns out the dead “commander” was lying about his identity. Pete’s interest in Black Dog only increases after that, particularly in the band’s otherworldly bassist and composer, Jade McCrae, whose extended family has connections to Hopner and the dead man—and to some really interesting ideas about gods and reincarnation. When Hopner turns up drawn and quartered in the Arizona desert, the case becomes so high profile that Pete struggles to keep control of it. Is it a mob hit? An instance of ritual sacrifice? There are many parties with a preferred outcome—the Mafia, the politicians, the FBI, a coven of cultists—but Pete has decided that this case will play out the way he wants it to, even if he has to work a bit of magic of his own.

Michalson’s prose, as narrated by the loquacious Pete, is by turns wisecracking and obsessive. Here, he experiments with a bit of the mysticism he encounters in an extended Black Dog scene in order to focus his thoughts: “I lit a candle and set it on my hearth. Put the charms into a large wooden bowl….Placed the bowl near the candle and imagined the sea. Felt the moment of autumn evening and knew Aphrodite was in it. Then I took out a yellow legal pad and began to sketch out a viable plan of action.” The plot moves slowly, and the book is easily a hundred pages too long. Plus, it will take readers a while to get over Pete’s sometimes-insufferable snark. Even so, Pete’s quest takes him in unexpected occult directions, opening up an intricate world of ecstasy and paranoia. The author doesn’t quite achieve the level of emotional depth she seems to be striving for, but the novel’s angst and atmosphere—both authentically ’90s—make for a strangely alluring reading experience.

An engaging, snaking, and spirit-tinged murder tale about obsession and control.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-0-9853522-6-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Arula Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2022


Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

A much-beloved author gives a favorite recurring character her own novel.

Holly Gibney made her first appearance in print with a small role in Mr. Mercedes (2014). She played a larger role in The Outsider (2018). And she was the central character in If It Bleeds, a novella in the 2020 collection of the same name. King has said that the character “stole his heart.” Readers adore her, too. One way to look at this book is as several hundred pages of fan service. King offers a lot of callbacks to these earlier works that are undoubtedly a treat for his most loyal devotees. That these easter eggs are meaningless and even befuddling to new readers might make sense in terms of costs and benefits. King isn’t exactly an author desperate to grow his audience; pleasing the people who keep him at the top of the bestseller lists is probably a smart strategy, and this writer achieved the kind of status that whatever he writes is going to be published. Having said all that, it’s possible that even his hardcore fans might find this story a bit slow. There are also issues in terms of style. Much of the language King uses and the cultural references he drops feel a bit creaky. The word slacks occurs with distracting frequency. King uses the phrase keeping it on the down-low in a way that suggests he probably doesn’t understand how this phrase is currently used—and has been used for quite a while. But the biggest problem is that this narrative is framed as a mystery without delivering the pleasures of a mystery. The reader knows who the bad guys are from the start. This can be an effective storytelling device, but in this case, waiting for the private investigator heroine to get to where the reader is at the beginning of the story feels interminable.

Loyal King stans may disagree, but this is a snooze.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781668016138

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


The most richly accomplished of the brothers’ pairings to date—and given Connelly’s high standards, that’s saying a lot.

Harry Bosch and the Lincoln Lawyer team up to exonerate a woman who’s already served five years for killing her ex-husband.

The evidence against Lucinda Sanz was so overwhelming that she followed the advice of Frank Silver, the B-grade attorney who’d elbowed his way onto her defense, and pleaded no contest to manslaughter to avoid a life sentence for shooting Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Roberto Sanz in the back as he stalked out of her yard after their latest argument. But now that her son, Eric, is 13, old enough to get recruited by local gangs, she wants to be out of stir and at his side. So she writes to Mickey Haller, who asks his half-brother for help. After all his years working for the LAPD, Bosch is adamant about not working for a criminal defendant, even though Haller’s already taken him on as an associate so that he can get access to private health insurance and a UCLA medical trial for an experimental cancer treatment. But the habeas corpus hearing Haller’s aiming for isn’t, strictly speaking, a criminal defense proceeding, and even a cursory examination of the forensic evidence raises Bosch’s hackles. Bolstered by Bosch’s discoveries and a state-of-the-art digital reconstruction of the shooting, Haller heads to court to face Assistant Attorney General Hayden Morris, who has a few tricks up his own sleeve. The endlessly resourceful courtroom back-and-forth is furious in its intensity, although Haller eventually upstages Bosch, Morris, and everyone else in sight. What really stands out here, however, is that Connelly never lets you forget, from his title onward, the life-or-death issues behind every move in the game.

The most richly accomplished of the brothers’ pairings to date—and given Connelly’s high standards, that’s saying a lot.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780316563765

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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