A flawed but intelligently entertaining mystery.

THE GOLDEN PEACOCK

A successful author chasing a story becomes drawn into a perilous search for a former Nazi in this novel.

Rainee Allen’s fiction debut is a bestseller and lands her a new book deal and a substantial advance. But she’s stuck in a creative drought, unable to come up with her next big idea and worried her success was a fluke. Then she stumbles on the identification card of Holocaust survivor Jana Lutken, which was given to her when she visited a museum in Washington, D.C., years earlier. She notes that she shares a birthday with Jana, separated by 30 years, and is inspired to track her down. By a stroke of luck, her best friend, Shelley, is sent to London for a work assignment, and Rainee tags along, hoping to discover Jana there. The writer eventually finds Jana in a nursing facility, her last name now Bowman as the result of marriage, alone and addled by Alzheimer’s. Rainee notices that Jana is frozen with terror when a physician, Dr. Wagner, is in her presence and decides to conduct her own private investigation, eventually harboring suspicions that he is the son of a Nazi responsible for the sinking of a ship of orphaned children, one that Jana’s brother, Max, was on at the time. The deeper Rainee delves, the more dangerous her inquiries become, and she starts to believe she is being followed by two mysterious men, unsure if they are sent to protect or apprehend Wagner’s father. Grossman (Once in Every Generation, 2011) deftly leaps back and forth in time, simultaneously following Rainee’s journalistic investigation and Jana’s suffering as a result of the war. The author adroitly depicts the degradations Jews were subjected to by their tormentors as well as the inspiring attempt by Jana to transcend her trauma. The writing is clear, if lacking in literary flair, and the pace is invitingly brisk. But Grossman has a weakness for clichéd descriptions—even her protagonist admits that her two enigmatic pursuers seem like characters from a John le Carré novel. In addition, the entire plot hinges on some extraordinary coincidences that will likely challenge readers’ incredulity.

A flawed but intelligently entertaining mystery.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-5118-0739-5

Page Count: 284

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

BADLANDS

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more