Vigilante justice leads to something more complex in this New England–accented novel about a multifaceted reporter.

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The Dandy Vigilante

A Boston reporter finds himself in the middle of a murder case after scuffling with street punks in Daley’s (South Pacific Survivor: In Samoa, 2009) latest thriller.

Newsman Dax Grantham hopes to move to the investigative beat and tries to hone his skills by trailing his psychologist wife, Debbie, while he’s dressed as an old man, for practice. He’s sidetracked, however, when thugs accost an old woman and his martial arts training enables him to step in. An editor who learns of the incident asks him to cover the story, but Dax dodges assignments relating to the crime. What’s worse, his trailing of Debbie has made him suspect that she might be having an affair, as she and the mayor’s chief of staff, Bradley Swanson, have met on several occasions. When Bradley is found murdered, police find evidence against Debbie and arrest her, so Dax initiates his own investigation into the crime. Unfortunately, he’s tied to the victim, having confronted him about Debbie, and authorities are looking at Dax not only as the vigilante, but as a murder suspect. Despite the author’s playful title, the story isn’t really about Dax as a crime fighter à la Batman, whose name, along with those of other comic-book heroes, turns up frequently. The bulk of the suspense derives, and proficiently so, from Debbie. Dax begins investigating to exonerate his wife, a woman he never fully trusts and often surmises is either setting him up or possibly pointing the evidence in his direction. But he isn’t a squeaky-clean hero; his few fights with criminals occur not when he’s doing his job as a reporter, but by pure happenstance, typically when he’s out spying on Debbie. The gleefully bemusing Dax wears many hats, some good, such as working as an amateur detective, and others considerably less flattering; his obsessively tracking Debbie, without her knowledge, borders on stalking. A lawyer in the Boston area, Daley deepens the mystery by occasionally dropping hints about his protagonist’s back story, which includes an incident years earlier that caused his wife to distrust him and a traumatic high school experience that ultimately comes to light.

Vigilante justice leads to something more complex in this New England–accented novel about a multifaceted reporter.

Pub Date: March 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1937536640

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2014

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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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