A fast-paced and thoroughly engaging whodunit set in the American West.

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Coyote

From the Jessica James Mystery series

This latest Jessica James mystery from Oliver (Wolf, 2016, etc.) follows the feisty heroine as she leaves college and returns to her mother’s trailer park in the tiny town of Whitefish, Montana.

In college, Jessica’s adviser was found dead in his bathtub, and she helped to unravel the crime. But as this new novel opens, readers are told that “she much preferred contemplating the mysteries of life to the mysteries of death.” She returns uneasily to the world of her crusty old mother in the Alpine Vista trailer park. As in the previous book, this fish-out-of-water heroine displays a very appealing, mordant wit: “She shuddered, imagining herself in a trailer next door to her mom, married to a beer swilling lumberjack, changing diapers and wiping up baby puke, a stash of Xanax in her nightstand and a bottle of Jack in her pantry to counteract the mind numbing domestic routine.” But any idea of peaceful retreat evaporates almost immediately. Johnny Dickerson perishes in a freak accident at the local mill, and only a week later, Jessica’s cousin Mike likewise dies under mysterious circumstances. Heartbroken, she involves herself in the investigation of these deaths, during which she uncovers nefarious doings involving not only murder, but also human trafficking and shady ecological manipulations by a powerful company and its local representative. Oliver draws all her secondary personae with skill and low-key drama, and the glimpses she gives of life in contemporary Montana—the human tragedies, the tempos, and the raw hopes of those surviving there—remain refreshingly authentic. The character of Jessica is sharpened and augmented from what readers encountered in the first book, and the author’s penchant for perfectly timed punch lines is on full display throughout. As in the first novel in the series, this latest book’s interwoven plots are a bit top-heavy. What this gains in page-turning, the story loses in an element of believability. But Oliver keeps the whole stew bubbling along so effectively that most readers shouldn’t complain.

A fast-paced and thoroughly engaging whodunit set in the American West.

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9975836-0-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Kaos Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2016

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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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An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

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THE BITTERROOTS

The creator of Wyoming Fish and Game Warden Joe Pickett (Wolf Pack, 2019, etc.) launches a new series starring a female private eye who messes with a powerful family and makes everyone involved rue the day.

Cassie Dewell’s been taking a monthly retainer from Bozeman attorney Rachel Mitchell for investigations of one sort and another, but she really doesn’t want to look into the case of Rachel’s newest client. That’s partly because Blake Kleinsasser, the fourth-generation firstborn of a well-established ranching family who moved to New York and made his own bundle before returning back home, comes across as a repellent jerk and partly because all the evidence indicates that he raped Franny Porché, his 15-year-old niece. And there’s plenty of evidence, from a rape kit showing his DNA to a lengthy, plausible statement from Franny. But Cassie owes Rachel, and Rachel tells her she doesn’t have to dig up exculpatory evidence, just follow the trail where it leads so that she can close off every other possibility. So Cassie agrees even though there’s an even more compelling reason not to: The Kleinsassers—Horst II and Margaret and their three other children, John Wayne, Rand, and Cheyenne, Franny’s thrice-divorced mother—are not only toxic, but viperishly dangerous to Blake and now Cassie. Everyone in Lochsa County, from Sheriff Ben Wagy on down, is in their pockets, and everyone Cassie talks to, from the Kleinsassers to the local law, finds new ways to make her life miserable. But Cassie, an ex-cop single mother, isn’t one to back down, especially since she wonders why anyone would take all the trouble to stop an investigation of a case that was as rock-solid as this one’s supposed to be.

An appealing new heroine, a fast-moving plot, and a memorably nightmarish family make this one of Box’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-05105-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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