Competent but unmemorable, especially by Anderson’s own standards.

STAKE

Dauntingly prolific Anderson steps away from his farcical series starring Dan Shamble, zombie PI, for a much more straight-faced search for vampires in Colorado Springs.

Back from his traumatizing service in the Bosnian War, David Grundy takes the name Simon Helsing as a cover for his newfound peacetime vocation: hunting vampires. Following up on a list of characters he considers suspicious mainly because they work at night, he drives a stake through the heart of convenience store clerk Mark Stallings and eliminates Douglas Eldridge, a fellow Bosnia vet, before a killing he didn’t count on sends him into hiding. Helsing’s only remaining ties are to Lucius, the head of the Bastion, a shadowy group dedicated to rooting out vampires wherever they can be found, and to Alexis Tarada, a freelance researcher whose website, HideTruth.com, does its impartial best to weigh the evidence for and against supernatural beings, evidence that Detective Todd Carrow, of the Colorado Springs Police Department, would reflexively brand as paranoid raving. Like Helsing, who shares his list of suspected vampires with Alexis, Carrow is willing to play along with her but only up to a point: “Vampires don’t have to be real, but the killer certainly is.” So although they might frame the question in different terms, all three leading characters would agree that the main questions here are whether there really are vampires and what we should do if there are.

Competent but unmemorable, especially by Anderson’s own standards.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7278-9053-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Severn House

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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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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Just the thing for one of those lengthening nights between Halloween and Christmas.

WHEN CHRISTMAS COMES

The most wonderful time of the year doesn’t do a bit to deter Klavan from his trademark razzle-dazzle plotting.

Nothing bad, it seems, has ever happened in the patly named town of Sweet Haven, which is both 20 miles and a whole world away from the Fort Anderson Army base—at least not until ex–Army Ranger Travis Blake kills his sweetheart, elementary school librarian Jennifer Dean, hacks her to pieces, and dumps her remains in a nearby lake. Since Blake has volunteered a full confession, there’s no mystery to solve. Yet nothing about the crime seems to make sense, and Public Defender Victoria Grossburger, convinced that her client is lying, asks her friend and former lover Cameron Winter to find evidence that will prove it. Winter, a literature professor who sees things other people don’t, has a fairy-tale backstory as a poor little rich boy ignored by his parents and still haunted by a story his nanny’s brother told him as a child about a wintry encounter with a young woman who was stabbed to death by her father more than 200 years ago. Klavan has limited interest in stitching together the different pieces of his puzzle—everything’s a psychomachia, Winter eventually decides, as if that settled it all—but the climactic surprise, following complications that get wilder and woolier, is not so much logical as inevitable. And readers who can swallow the miracle of Christmas may well decide that they can accept this frankly fictional and oddly inspirational tale as well.

Just the thing for one of those lengthening nights between Halloween and Christmas.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61316-240-8

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Mysterious Press

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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