An energetic, resourceful procedural starring a heroine who deserves a series of her own.

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LOST HILLS

Veteran TV writer and fiction collaborator Goldberg (Killer Thriller, 2019, etc.) auditions a tough, ambitious rookie LA County detective determined to ride a triple murder hard—if it doesn’t destroy her career first.

After stepping up when she was off duty to take down an action-movie star who was smacking his girlfriend around, Eve Ronin suddenly found herself catapulted to the county sheriff’s Robbery-Homicide Division, where the cases are high profile and her male peers are low tolerant. Minutes after she and Detective Duncan Pavone, her older, fatter, more dispassionate partner, shrug off a borderline killing that really belongs to the LAPD, they answer a distress call from a neighbor of aspiring actress/actual waitress Tanya Kenworth to find Tanya, her two children, and her dog missing from their Topanga house, which is awash in blood. As she’s searching the woods around the house for clues, Eve is jumped by a hairy monster she can’t even identify as human before she’s knocked out—an incident she improbably decides to keep secret from Duncan. There’s plenty of convincing evidence that the family was killed, dismembered, and taken away but no evidence that points to any particular suspect. Tanya’s ex-husband, Cleve, seems to have been hours away in Merced when his estranged family vanished, and her ex-boyfriend, Jared Rawlins, was entertaining his rebound hookup. As if determined never to be off duty again, Eve works around the clock to find and pursue new leads, but instead of impressing her colleagues, she just convinces them that she’s a ruthless careerist. Nor do her efforts sit well with her endlessly critical mother, who can’t understand why she looks so disheveled during the TV interviews that make her the face, and eventually the leader, of the investigation. At length, Eve’s tireless work identifies a suspect she arrests, but although he fits the evidence to a T, his smug self-assurance makes her worry that she’s screwed up. And she has, though not in the way she thinks.

An energetic, resourceful procedural starring a heroine who deserves a series of her own.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9380-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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

THINGS IN JARS

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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