Like the Fixer Upper movies it’s spawned on the Hallmark Channel, this popular series hits just the right notes: mystery,...

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PREMEDITATED MORTAR

A dream job quickly becomes a nightmare for a California contractor.

Shannon Hammer has a thriving business in Lighthouse Cove specializing in rehabbing Victorian homes. When her bestie, Jane Hennessey, invests in a project to turn the Gables, a moldering but architecturally stunning former mental hospital, into a hotel and destination resort, Shannon is thrilled to get the job. Because she developed a romantic relationship with bestselling author Mac Sullivan while restoring his home, she’s excited that Rachel Powers, who’s running the project, has approached Mac as another possible investor. A smattering of protesters spoil the moment of groundbreaking with their demands that the Gables be burned down. Wondering whether the protesters were patients or workers there, Shannon can imagine why they might be unhappy after hearing an unhinged speech from the doctor who last ran the place. Even Jane, whose mother was a patient there, has plenty of unhappy memories. After her crew has started working, Shannon is pushed over a partially demolished brick wall and is lucky to escape with minor injuries. Removing the wall reveals the body of one of the protesters, leading Shannon and Mac to research the protester’s earlier life in order to help the police chief, who’s engaged to Shannon’s sister. Certain the answer is in the past, they uncover some horrifying stories of cruelty that suggest many possible motives for murder.

Like the Fixer Upper movies it’s spawned on the Hallmark Channel, this popular series hits just the right notes: mystery, romance, historical detail.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984804-41-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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The most over-the-top of Horowitz’s frantically overplotted whodunits to date—and that’s no mean feat.

MOONFLOWER MURDERS

Susan Ryeland, the book editor who retired to Crete after solving the mind-boggling mysteries of Magpie Murders (2017), is enticed to England to try her hand at another Chinese box of a case.

Eight years ago, the wedding weekend of Cecily Treherne and Aiden MacNeil at Branlow Hall, the high-end Suffolk hotel the bride’s parents owned, was ruined by the murder of Frank Parris, a hotel guest and advertising man who just happened to be passing through. Romanian-born maintenance man Stefan Codrescu was promptly convicted of the crime and has been in prison ever since. But Cecily’s recent disappearance shortly after having told her parents she’d become certain Stefan was innocent drives Lawrence and Pauline Treherne to find Susan in Crete, where they offer her 10,000 pounds to solve the mystery again and better. Susan’s the perfect candidate because she worked closely with late author Alan Conway, whose third novel, Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, contained the unspecified evidence that convinced Cecily that Detective Superintendent Richard Locke, now DCS Locke, had made a mistake. Checking into Branlow Hall and interviewing Cecily’s hostile sister, Lisa, and several hotel staffers who were on the scene eight years ago tells Susan all too little. So she turns to Atticus Pünd Takes the Case, whose unabridged reproduction occupies the middle third of Horowitz’s novel, and finds that it offers all too much in the way of possible clues, red herrings, analogies, anagrams, and easter eggs. The novel within a novel is so extensive and absorbing on its own, in fact, that all but the brainiest armchair detectives are likely to find it a serious distraction from the mystery to which it’s supposed to offer the key.

The most over-the-top of Horowitz’s frantically overplotted whodunits to date—and that’s no mean feat.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06295-545-6

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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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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