Sneaky fun but just a twist too far.

A retired actress is forced to sleuth on behalf of a longtime rival.

When Poppy Harmon was a TV star, one of her least favorite parts of the job was having to work with divas like Serena Saunders. So stuck on herself that she once refused to attend an on-set birthday party when she found out she’d have to share the place of honor with Poppy, Serena went on to have a longer and slightly more illustrious career than her former castmate. Meanwhile, Poppy retired to Palm Springs, where she now runs the Desert Flowers Detective Agency with partners Iris Becker, Violet Hogan, and Matt Flowers. But if you thought running her own business would give Poppy the freedom to turn snooty Serena down flat when she asks for Desert Flowers’ help running a background check on her brand-new fiance, local entrepreneur Ned Boyce, you’d be underestimating the sway Serena’s star power has on Poppy’s partners. After several days investigating the wealthy businessman, Poppy finds herself wondering whether it’s the bride, not the groom, who should be vetted. Discovering who, if anyone, in the Saunders-Boyce union is in peril is only part of the fun. As the investigation unfolds, Poppy is dogged by the growing indifference of her boyfriend, Sam. She also finds herself reviewing her career path and pondering how long to hold onto old grievances. It’s only the very end of the story, when Hollis decides to introduce new drama into a case that seemed solved, that might leave readers wanting a little less.

Sneaky fun but just a twist too far.  

Pub Date: May 23, 2023

ISBN: 9781496738899

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2023


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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


A female-forward thriller that makes a strong case that smart, unflinching women should run the world.

Letty Davenport seeks to infiltrate a group of freelance hackers in order to thwart their next project—or maybe to help it along.

Ordinary People, an anti-MAGA cabal of lefties, has already pulled off a string of small-scale disruptions, and the word from the CIA is that they plan to take down the power in the Twin Cities, where Letty grew up. Sen. Christopher Colles, the unofficial boss who’s been impressed by Letty’s unflappable skills with weaponry, wants her to pose as the girlfriend of National Security Agency computer specialist Rod Baxter as he seeks to hook up with Ordinary People across the country in California. After their first attempt goes spectacularly wrong, their forces are beefed up by CIA operative Barbara Cartwright and Department of Homeland Security investigator John Kaiser, who worked with Letty in The Investigator (2022), and they succeed in getting close to Craig Sovern, a prominent Ordinary Person who’s already been wreaking havoc on a number of railroad trains and plans to go bigger and bolder. And these aren’t just any trains. Realizing that Ordinary People’s attacks on the hate-fueled social media platform SlapBack may be a sign that their larger operations are providing an important service to the cause of world peace, Letty and her peeps switch from trying to bring down the organization to trying to protect it from the likes of Russian agent Arseny Stepashin and his trusted contractor Tom Boyadjian—all while keeping everything hush-hush. Yeah, right. Sandford alternates brisk action sequences with a steady stream of revelations that make equivocal players and their ambiguous relations even more complicated.

A female-forward thriller that makes a strong case that smart, unflinching women should run the world.

Pub Date: April 11, 2023

ISBN: 9780593422410

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023