From the author of Baltimore Blues (1991), an old-but-new western with rawhide dialogue and a far-out plot laced with 100-proof bourbon. Why anyone who writes like Moler (—Montana was older than history, bigger than life, and empty as death, six hundred miles of tableland running out of the east on a wave of grass—) would write this familiar tale of old cowhand being eaten alive by modern life may be a good question. Vietnam vet John David Jefferson, who carries a cell phone out on the range, isn—t really so old when his wife Celine, 44, mother of his two children, leaves him. Just as bad, his 150 pedigreed Angus, frisky with life the night before, lie dead as if hit by a bomb. The medical examiner hasn’t a clue, but Jefferson thinks it’s a result of poisoned water from the new Unitel computer-chip plant. He finds that the plant is leased from his old buddy-turned-enemy Harlow Rourke, a far bigger rancher than Jefferson, but barging in on Rourke results in only deeper enmity. Nasty Harlow, who snuffs little Asian girls for sex, confronts Unitel’s Asian boss C.K. Lone, and we learn that the plant is actually making an aerosol rabies virus for Asia’s Triad, which is expanding worldwide, absorbing both East and West Coast Mafias. Unitel means to sell the virus to Iraq, Iran, Israel, and the US, netting a hundred million or more. Meanwhile, C.K. Lone is set on overthrowing the Triad’s leader, Hahn, and raising himself to top spot—until the original discoverer of the virus, James Vandivier, spills the entire tale to Jefferson. The dead cattle? Unitel’s first test of the virus. Now Jefferson is really set on revenge and, with Vandivier and Rourke murdered, decides to take on the bad guys himself—and face a genetic horror that’s been building since prehistory. Fine prose helps bolster an odd if exciting western that mixes cowboys, Native Americans, Asians, and molecular biology. An above-average millennial oater.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-84355-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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. 22, 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...


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 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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