His detective isn’t the most pleasant of company, but Persson’s wry commentaries on contemporary Swedish life make for...

THE SWORD OF JUSTICE

More Scandinavian murder mayhem from Swedish novelist/criminologist Persson (The Dying Detective, 2017, etc.).

Evert Bäckström lacks the noble mien of Hercule Poirot and the rough chivalry of Philip Marlowe; he’s a worldly schlub of large appetites and strong opinions (“carrots and oatbran were almost certainly one contributing fact to why his malnourished and cretinous colleagues fucked up with such depressing regularity”) who doesn’t lack for prejudices and the ugly language to accompany them. Still, he’s been at the detective game for a long time, and even if he likes to hide out in his office with the door closed and a do-not-disturb light, he’s actually reasonably good at his job, less briskly efficient than his right-hand man (“who, naturally, was a woman”), but still game to “wield the sword of justice” come Monday morning each week. As the narrative progresses, one week’s comparatively mild body count is headed by the murder of an arty aristocrat, illustrating that he who lives by the auction catalog dies by the auction catalog. But that murder has bearing on another, this one of a lawyer with connections to organized crime and the drug trade—and, not coincidentally, to a plot to do away with Bäckström. There’s a Maltese falcon in the equation, too, in the form of a music box that has been wandering from living room to living room ever since it slipped out of the possession of “that fat bloke who was always smoking a cigar”—that is, Winston Churchill. Getting to the facts of the matter takes plenty of time, and Persson seems in no hurry to arrive at a conclusion, which, one assumes, is a reflection of the business-as-usual slow unfolding of criminal investigations, particularly ones as tangled as this, in which one bit of bad behavior leads to another.

His detective isn’t the most pleasant of company, but Persson’s wry commentaries on contemporary Swedish life make for pleasing entertainment.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-101-87295-6

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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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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POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

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