THE DARK BEFORE DAWN

Detective Gabriel McCray, the prime suspect in the Malibu Canyon serial killings, grapples with the ghosts of his tormented past in Stevens’ (Follow Your Dreams, 2009, etc.) dark murder mystery.

Set in the Santa Monica Mountains, the novel begins with the termination of Det. Gabriel McCray, who is serving a suspension for police brutality. Meanwhile, the Malibu Canyon murderer lures unsuspecting victims into the mountains, carving them up with an old Army knife before engulfing them in flames. When the serial murderer leaves a peculiar message lodged in a gaping hole in a victim’s chest, three things become apparent—the perpetrator knows Gabriel, he or she is intent on revisiting his past and the Los Angeles Police Department cannot solve the case without reinstating him. With Gabriel back on the case, Stevens sets the stage for graphic sensory details and a fast-paced, tantalizing mystery that utilizes her passion and research in forensics and psychology. From fingers still displaying wedding bands to severed ears, the serial killer collects one gruesome souvenir after another in an attempt to achieve the seven chakras of power. As the plot unfolds, dialogue between Gabriel and his psychologist Dr. B produces revelations about “Gabe’s” childhood, and his suppressed memories are extracted through hypnosis. Stevens seamlessly integrates flashbacks of Gabriel’s life in San Francisco as a neglected child and his traumatic experiences with Andrew Pierce. Readers will relate to the San Francisco and Los Angeles settings, and Stevens’ allusions to “Cask of Amontillado” and Frankenstein craft a story immersed in theater, disguise and secrecy. In the midst of the upheaval caused by the unsolved murders, the author provides Gabriel with a fascinating love interest, Ming—the chief medical examiner assigned to examine the victims’ bodies. Gabriel’s bouts of violent behavior and incessant blackouts at inopportune times leave him as the prime suspect and thrust him into a world of self doubt, old wounds and suppressed memories in which key clues are concealed. Memorable characters, macabre scenes and a dazzling portrayal of reality will leave readers anxious for book two in the Gabriel McCray series.

 

Pub Date: June 24, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456450113

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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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

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