A fulfilling read for both mystery and chick-lit aficionados.

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A POINTED DEATH

FIRST IN THE POINTER MYSTERY SERIES

The new novel by Russell (Deed So, 2010) is the first in a promised mystery series that takes place in the “wacky” world of biotech.

Embezzler Roger Chen did not single-handedly bring down entrepreneur Nola Billingsley’s dot-com business, but he did hasten its demise. Nola hardly wishes him well, but she never wanted to find his dead body in San Francisco’s Fort Funston—especially not with his severed head several feet away. On the bright side, her gruesome discovery brings her in closer contact with investigator Bob Harrison. But it also results in the inevitable clash as she insists on investigating the murder herself. As feisty, intelligent and well-respected Nola works as a consultant in the small world of biotechnology, she learns that Roger had his hands in many pies, or at least the funds of many start-ups. With both her romance with Harrison and her consulting business blossoming, Nola delves deeper into the incestuous world of biotech companies, learning that they are more closely linked than even their CEOs imagined; one hacks into the systems of several competitors. Nola is a fun, honest and intelligent 40-something heroine, with a live-in octogenarian mother and jealous short-haired pointer to keep her from getting bored—and from getting any privacy with her new lover. With just the right mix of action, intrigue, romance and the chick-lit distractions of cocktails, dinners and shopping, the book is a fun, fast-paced read. Russell is a skilled writer who doesn’t give herself enough credit when she calls her book “silly” in the acknowledgements. It may not be great literature, but it is an engrossing, cozy read, reminiscent of the many mysteries featuring spunky female amateur sleuths that the New York houses used to churn out. As proof of Russell’s writing abilities, she makes biotechnology almost comprehensible.

A fulfilling read for both mystery and chick-lit aficionados.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-1450563093

Page Count: 352

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

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SHAKESPEARE FOR SQUIRRELS

Manic parodist Moore, fresh off a season in 1947 San Francisco (Noir, 2018), returns with a rare gift for Shakespeare fans who think A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be perfect if only it were a little more madcap.

Cast adrift by pirates together with his apprentice, halfwit giant Drool, and Jeff, his barely less intelligent monkey, Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, jester to the late King Lear, washes ashore in Shakespeare’s Athens, where Cobweb, a squirrel by day and fairy by night, takes him under her wing and other parts. Soon after he encounters Robin Goodfellow (the Puck), jester to shadow king Oberon, and Nick Bottom and the other clueless mechanicals rehearsing Pyramus and Thisby in a nearby forest before they present it in celebration of the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the captive Amazon queen who’s captured his heart, Pocket (The Serpent of Venice, 2014, etc.) finds Robin fatally shot by an arrow. Suspected briefly of the murder himself, he’s commissioned, first by Hippolyta, then by the unwitting Theseus, to identify the Puck’s killer. Oh, and Egeus, the Duke’s steward, wants him to find and execute Lysander, who’s run off with Egeus’ daughter, Hermia, instead of marrying Helena, who’s in love with Demetrius. As English majors can attest, a remarkable amount of this madness can already be found in Shakespeare’s play. Moore’s contribution is to amp up the couplings, bawdy language, violence, and metatextual analogies between the royals, the fairies, the mechanicals, his own interloping hero, and any number of other plays by the Bard.

A kicky, kinky, wildly inventive 21st-century mashup with franker language and a higher body count than Hamlet.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-243402-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 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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