The mystery, though surprising enough, is outshone by family problems, detailed descriptions of the setting, and devilishly...

THE BODY IN THE CASKET

A coffin as a birthday gift is either a bizarre joke or a very bad omen.

Every aspect of Faith Fairchild’s life in lovely Aleford, Massachusetts, is about to cause her trouble. Her college-bound son Ben’s girlfriend, who tells him she needs some space, has unfriended him on Facebook. Her best friend Pix’s daughter has lost her job and her boyfriend and moved home. Pix’s widowed mother is dating a man whose motives are suspect. The town council, whose members include Faith’s minister husband, is divided over a proposal to put in a strip mall. But these problems fade away when Faith receives a call from Max Dane, once a famous Broadway producer, offering her an outrageous amount to cater a weekendlong birthday party for a dozen people at his nearby estate. Arriving at Max’s mansion to discuss the arrangements, she meets his attractive jack-of-all-trades, Ian Morrison, who will help her cater to the guests. Although Max does indeed want to throw a birthday party, he’s actually hiring Faith for her talents as an amateur sleuth (The Body in the Wardrobe, 2016, etc.) because he’s sure one of his guests has sent him a coffin containing a Playbill from his 20-year-old production of Heaven or Hell: The Musical. The play was a flop that wrecked the careers of many associated with it, and all his invited guests had a part in the disaster. After giving Faith a tour of the magnificent house, Max reveals that it was the home of his mother’s wealthy family, who cast her off when she married beneath her. They continued to invite the younger Max to stay every year, but his visits had proved so awful they were practically abusive. Although two of his guests die before the party, the rest arrive on time. Can Faith figure out which of them harbors thoughts of murder before the deed is done?

The mystery, though surprising enough, is outshone by family problems, detailed descriptions of the setting, and devilishly delicious food.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-243956-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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