The recurring detective and his delightful band of cronies lead a sharp, absorbing mystery.

AN INITIAL COUNTDOWN

A HASZARD NARRATIVE

An amateur English sleuth ties a couple of baffling deaths to a religious commune in this ninth outing of a thriller series.

On a rainy November night, a car runs Haszard and his girlfriend Sabrina off the road. The driver doesn’t stop but apparently leaves a second victim: another car in much worse condition than the couple’s. The injured man behind the wheel, whom Haszard learns is Colin Masters, eventually dies. A drug addict who disappeared a year ago, Colin had a trunkful of cannabis and, Haszard surmises, was the unknown driver’s intended target. Even more telling is that Colin lived in Frinton, the same village where local vicar George Ealham burned to death—inside a locked church with no sign of a heat source. Though Haszard works in health care, he often solves mysteries on the side and, at the behest of George’s widow, June, agrees to look into the vicar’s unexplained demise. Haszard somehow links both deaths to a religious commune, which he accordingly scrutinizes with help from Sabrina and their myriad friends. They lock onto a few suspects but unfortunately can’t prevent the discovery of more bodies before the investigation’s over. Whereas earlier books in Hatt’s (The Ambiguity of Guilt, 2017, etc.) series featured a handful of sometimes distracting subplots, the latest is much more focused. Haszard and company examine everything, from exploring how George died (if not spontaneous combustion) to essentially putting the commune under surveillance. The only subplot, in fact, provides relief from the meticulous probe—a friend’s attempt to seduce Haszard understandably prompts drama —and later has unforeseen consequences that may affect the case. Humor is dry and likewise welcome; charming cohort Grace admits once belonging to a cult because she “had a couple of weeks spare” and “thought that it would be an experience.” The killer isn’t a surprise, but the final act, with good guys and gals in peril, is teeming with suspense.

The recurring detective and his delightful band of cronies lead a sharp, absorbing mystery.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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