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THE TWELVE BOOKS OF CHRISTMAS

Pleasing characters and vivid descriptions of glorious Scotland overshadow the mystery in this quirky Christmas tale.

A married couple with a long history of detecting travel to Scotland for a joyous occasion only to find themselves embroiled in murder and theft.

Former spy Derek Stone and his bookbinder wife, Brooklyn Wainwright, are hosting a big family Christmas dinner in California when their friend Claire phones to say that she and her Scottish beau, Cameron MacKinnon, are getting married and they want Derek, Brooklyn, and Brooklyn’s parents to attend their wedding in Scotland—on New Year’s Eve. Claire seems worried about 12 Christmas-themed books, some of them very valuable, that went missing from the castle library after the couple hired a librarian to organize it. Castle MacKinnon, located on the shores of Loch Ness, features lovely views and incredible food. But a major fly in the ointment is a local family who seems to think their oldest daughter, Bitsy, should be marrying Cameron and are doing everything in their power to make Claire’s life a misery. Scary noises at night hint at a haunting, but Brooklyn’s more concerned about Olivia, the librarian who left the library door locked and who has an odd taste in books and an interest in Wicca. Bitsy uses the Scottish New Year's tradition of welcoming neighbors as an excuse to move into the castle, forcing a postponement of the wedding. Soon after Bitsy's unwelcome arrival, a local lad is found murdered in a castle closet. Brooklyn naturally puts the missing books on the back burner, and the wedding is postponed a few more days to allow her to investigate. Even though another murder follows, all the castle’s problems may be tied together if the sleuths can only untangle the clues.

Pleasing characters and vivid descriptions of glorious Scotland overshadow the mystery in this quirky Christmas tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023

ISBN: 9780593637685

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2023

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A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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THE BURNING

A brutal, gripping look at murder in a self-enclosed community with many secrets to hide.

When two police officers stop for a bit of dalliance, screams from the nearby woods introduce them to a puzzling and horrifying murder.

Chuck Skidmore and Mona Kurtz don’t arrive in time to rescue a man who’s being burned at the stake, a sight that will haunt their dreams. Police Chief Kate Burkholder arrives on the scene with her husband, John Tomasetti, an agent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who’ll join her and many other cops in a task force investigating the bizarre murder. Born Amish, Kate ran away from Painters Mill, found her vocation in law enforcement, and eventually came home as the police department’s chief. Over the years, she’s built up some trust with the local Amish community, who generally prefer to keep their problems to themselves. The victim is Milan Swanz, a troubled former schoolmate of Kate’s whom she’s arrested several times. A divorced man with four children, he’d been recently excommunicated by the Amish. Although Milan was far from popular, Kate meets a wall of silence from even her own brother, one of many people who had disputes with the hot-tempered man. Kate’s theory of the crime, based on stories in a book popular with the Amish, is so bizarre that she has trouble believing it herself. When her brother is arrested, she’s removed from the task force but continues to investigate, putting her in the sights of some very determined killers.

A brutal, gripping look at murder in a self-enclosed community with many secrets to hide.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250781116

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2024

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