Dispensing with the genre’s customary pleasures—promising plot developments go nowhere, menacing characters are abruptly...

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THE GHOSTS OF GALWAY

Jack Taylor goes looking for an explosive volume and finds it and a whole lot of other explosions.

Working these days as a security guard for a factory owned by mysterious Ukrainian Alexander Knox-Keaton, Jack’s called into the office of his boss and given a new job: to find The Red Book, which has been pinched from the Vatican archives by rogue priest Frank Miller. It’s no trouble for a man with Jack’s contacts to find Miller, but the lapsed cleric refuses to tell Jack anything about the missing item, and before Jack can question him again, he’s been beaten to death and has loose pages from a book jammed down his throat. The news naturally brings Sgt. Ridge, the lesbian cop who was once Jack’s friend, to his door in a less than friendly role and brings Jack back to see his boss, who brusquely pays him off and warns him that terrible things will happen to him if he doesn’t stop asking questions. It’s not much of a threat since six terrible things happen to Jack most days before breakfast. But although Jack does indeed find the missing copy of The Red Book, its discovery seems powerless to stem the wave of violence it’s unleashed—a wave that will engulf Jack, Sgt. Ridge, goth girl Emerald McKee (Green Hell, 2015), and Lorna Dunphy, the schoolgirl who’s given Jack 19 euros to find her missing brother, Eamon, who’s going to be hard to find because he doesn’t exist. All these events unfold in the most mannered prose since the glory days of James Ellroy against the distant echoes of Donald Trump’s shockingly successful presidential campaign. Maybe Ireland doesn’t have a monopoly on troubles after all.

Dispensing with the genre’s customary pleasures—promising plot developments go nowhere, menacing characters are abruptly killed off, the solution solves nothing—Bruen still manages to deliver prose that’s both tough and elegiac, plus enough white space per page to tempt even Alice in Wonderland.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2733-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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