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

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 suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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