A flawed but intelligently entertaining mystery.



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

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.


Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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