A standard mystery, boosted by an entertaining quasi-detective and his unorthodox ways.

Phoenix From The Flame

From the The Haszard Narratives series , Vol. 3

In this entry of Hatt’s (No Reason for Insanity, 2015, etc.) thriller series, Haszard searches for a dead man whose widow is sure she’s spotted him alive and well.

Haszard makes his living working at a hospital and running his own framing shop. But his time as an amateur sleuth, often done as favors, is what puts him in danger. When friend and former co-worker Alice Kirby sees her late husband, Graham, in a crowd, she goes to known puzzle-solver Haszard for answers. Graham died in a pileup less than a year prior, his charred body not easily identifiable. Only one of two DNA tests confirmed it was Graham, while the other showed a discrepancy. Haszard talks to a number of Graham’s associates and soon suspects that the man’s death was a sham, likely somehow connected to his involvement in something nefarious. What that illicit deed (or deeds) is, Haszard doesn’t immediately know. But he’s clearly making someone nervous, as one person he intends to interview turns up dead, followed by the protagonist scuffling with a mysterious figure—possibly the murderer. With assistance from his girlfriend, Sabrina, her baby sister, Adelaide, and other cohorts, Haszard delves into an unsolved, possibly relevant robbery, dabbles in a little breaking and entering, takes on another case, and even stumbles upon a second body. The author’s third outing with his mononymous (to readers, at least) hero features a bevy of characters entangled in the case, be they Haszard’s aides or suspects. It’s occasionally overwhelming, with Haszard rarely interrogating people or breaking into flats without two or more tagging along, including pal Grace and master of disguise Millie. Hatt, however, well incorporates Haszard’s extra case: Samantha Cole wants to know how an apparent drowning victim is still alive. It’s much better than subplots in preceding series entries, ultimately inciting a breakthrough in the Alice case, in which Sam lends a helping hand. The protagonist debating whether or not to vocalize the L-word with Sabrina is both endearing and funny. But the most amusing bits entail Haszard’s conspicuous discomfort around children, lifting Alice’s 3-year-old son based on “a right and wrong way of picking dogs up.”

A standard mystery, boosted by an entertaining quasi-detective and his unorthodox ways.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4961-2835-5

Page Count: 386

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 24, 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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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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