A smart, science-based murder mystery despite a few stumbles.


Someone is using exotic poisons to kill a select group of unscrupulous medical malpractice lawyers in this debut thriller.

Robert Edgars is a private eye currently investigating lawyers. His attorney brother, Elliott, asks him to look into several members of the legal profession who sat at the same table during a recent Chicago conference on medical malpractice. They’re an immoral bunch, all involved in politics, who chase malpractice suits more for personal financial gain than their clients’ benefit. As it happens, Oliver Michaels’ seat at the table had been empty after an apparent heart attack, but readers know that someone poisoned him with rare mushrooms. When others from the group subsequently die, Elliott, who may himself be a target, requests that Robert find a link between the allegedly natural deaths. So the PI turns to NOLA Phytoceuticals, a New Orleans lab specializing in plants; Robert had initiated a deal with the lab concerning a natural aphrodisiac in Germany that turned profitable for everyone. He enlists Phytoceuticals, including pharmacist Dr. Mark Warre, and his daughter, Adelaide, in identifying poisons that might have killed the attorneys. Robert, however, has a tendency to withhold pertinent information, and it’s soon apparent others in the lab are harboring a secret or two as well. Though Vehaskari and Clark drop an early hint as to the killer’s identity and motive, there are copious suspects throughout the novel. Robert, for example, has good reason to hate lawyers, as one evidently stole all his retirement investments. The novel has some narrative inconsistencies, such as Adelaide’s twice telling her grandparents’ history to the same person. Characters are strong, however, and sometimes engaged in conversations or subplots not directly tied to the murders. The best of that indirectly related material involves Robert’s scheme for the German aphrodisiac, which entails smuggling and what seems to be a green-card marriage. The authors’ intelligent writing abounds with details, especially about plants. This leads to many scenes consisting primarily of dialogue, which are never tedious even as Mark, Adelaide, and others debate deaths readers already know are homicides.

A smart, science-based murder mystery despite a few stumbles. 

Pub Date: July 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5320-7734-0

Page Count: 258

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...


Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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