Sturdy plot elements and a multidimensional protagonist make this mystery an involving read.



Storms, secrets, and murder complicate a lawyer’s life in Alaska in the third Maeve Malloy mystery by Anchorage-based attorney Powell, the author of Hemlock Needle (2019).

Maeve Malloy is at a crossroads. She was briefly suspended from the bar after a hangover caused her to mishandle a legal case, and now that she’s free to return to practicing law, Malloy isn’t yet ready to go back to being a public defender. Bills wait for no one, however, and she takes a job as a kitchen helper at Fox Island Lodge outside Seward. Upon arriving, Malloy finds the lodge to be low on people, with just a couple of staff members and a handful of guests. The morning after a stormy night, the already small number drops by one when a murder victim is found outside. Due to the weather, the state troopers can’t reach the lodge, so Malloy steps in to bag the evidence and take witness statements. Unpleasant secrets come to light, and Malloy has to deal with vengeful parties, a hungrily bold bear, and at least one person whose sanity is very much in question. The majestic natural beauty of Alaska might seem like an unusual backdrop for a crime series in which the protagonist is an attorney, but without descending into cliché, Powell uses the setting and culture of Alaska deftly, showing the individualism and looser perspective on justice that draw people to a land still seen as a frontier by many. Malloy is a fully rounded creation: smart and careful yet struggling with alcoholism and self-doubt, she is both capable and believably flawed. The complications emerge in realistic ways so that even aspects that seem unlikely—such as having a nonpracticing attorney essentially open a police investigation—come across as natural to the narrative and not authorial contrivance. Background information is doled out steadily, and while there is a central mystery, the focus of the story is more on exploring the history of a family and those connected to it in intimate, terrible ways. This narrative thrust frees the book from the stereotypical genre constructions and allows the tale to go in directions that would be more constrained in a purely genre exercise.

Sturdy plot elements and a multidimensional protagonist make this mystery an involving read.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 312

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

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Once again, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett gets mixed up in a killing whose principal suspect is his old friend Nate Romanowski, whose attempts to live off the grid keep breaking down in a series of felony charges.

If Judge Hewitt hadn’t bent over to pick up a spoon that had fallen from his dinner table, the sniper set up nearly a mile from his house in the gated community of the Eagle Mountain Club would have ended his life. As it was, the victim was Sue Hewitt, leaving the judge alive and free to rail and threaten anyone he suspected of the shooting. Incoming Twelve Sleep County Sheriff Brendan Kapelow’s interest in using the case to promote his political ambitions and the judge’s inability to see further than his nose make them the perfect targets for a frame-up of Nate, who just wants to be left alone in the middle of nowhere to train his falcons and help his bride, Liv Brannon, raise their baby, Kestrel. Nor are the sniper, the sheriff, and the judge Nate’s only enemies. Orlando Panfile has been sent to Wyoming by the Sinaloan drug cartel to avenge the deaths of the four assassins whose careers Nate and Joe ended last time out (Wolf Pack, 2019). So it’s up to Joe, with some timely data from his librarian wife, Marybeth, to hire a lawyer for Nate, make sure he doesn’t bust out of jail before his trial, identify the real sniper, who continues to take an active role in the proceedings, and somehow protect him from a killer who regards Nate’s arrest as an unwelcome complication. That’s quite a tall order for someone who can’t shoot straight, who keeps wrecking his state-issued vehicles, and whose appalling mother-in-law, Missy Vankeuren Hand, has returned from her latest European jaunt to suck up all the oxygen in Twelve Sleep County to hustle some illegal drugs for her cancer-stricken sixth husband. But fans of this outstanding series will know better than to place their money against Joe.

One protest from an outraged innocent says it all: “This is America. This is Wyoming.”

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53823-3

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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