An often engaging New Orleans mystery with romantic and humorous touches.

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LIES AGREED UPON

In Sharma’s debut mystery, an unexpected inheritance brings a young woman to New Orleans, where she confronts a tangled legacy of family secrets.

Tess Parnell receives a mysterious letter in the mail informing her of a surprise windfall. It couldn’t come at a better time; in the last six months, she lost her school librarian job, her boyfriend dumped her, and her mother committed suicide. The letter, from a New Orleans law firm, says that she’s inherited some land in that city; the firm also represents an oil company that wants to buy the land from her. Tess decides to travel from Los Angeles to New Orleans to check things out and evaluate the firm’s $500,000 offer. It also gives her the chance to investigate her family history, about which she knows almost nothing; a yellowed newspaper clipping included in the law firm’s packet, for example, informs her for the first time that her grandfather was murdered many years ago. As she tracks down further clues, she meets several exciting and varied men while also enjoying New Orleans’ food, music, sights and unique atmosphere. Every step closer to the truth, however, brings her that much closer to danger. Sharma portrays New Orleans as beautiful, corrupt, complicated, secretive and tragic—far more than just an atmospheric backdrop for Tess’ genealogical investigations. She skillfully shows how the family betrayals, murders, lies and vengeance Tess uncovers are inextricably linked with New Orleans’ history, racial and sexual politics, and geography. The author handles dialogue (and dialect) well, which gives vitality to her large, varied cast, and she depicts Tess herself as likable, enterprising and sympathetic. However, the complicated family relationships, dating back several generations, may be hard for some readers to follow, and the frequent genealogical discussions become oppressive at times, even with the chart provided (which is difficult to read on an e-reader). At such points, the action sometimes bogs down, and more charts might have been helpful to illustrate some of the tangled relationships. That said, Sharma paces the novel well, gradually unfolding layers of mystery until the final truth is revealed.

An often engaging New Orleans mystery with romantic and humorous touches.

Pub Date: May 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482786262

Page Count: 302

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2013

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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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