After a standout appearance in Done Deal (1993), it's back to the grind for mayhem-prone Florida builder John Deal in this deeply ordinary Carl Hiaasen knockoff. Deal and his wife, Janice are, as usual, only minding their own business, taking a rare break from baby Isabel by visiting Marielena Marquez's Galeria y Ediciones Catalan. Hours after their leisurely tour, the gallery is bombed during a television broadcast to mark the exhibition of new work by a pair of controversial painters. No sooner have the shaken Deals congratulated themselves on their narrow escape than their own house is torched and Janice Deal horribly burned. Why is somebody out to get them? At first Deal speculates that signing the gallery's guest register put the bad guys on to them, but his friend Vernon Driscoll, a retired cop who opens a lot of doors with a phony badge, helps him find a different reason: The Deals' new tenant, whom they call Tommy Holsum, a harmless, slow-witted fellow, has somehow fallen afoul of hired killer Coco Morales. Sadly, Deal and Driscoll take the rest of the story to work out what Standiford lets us in on from the beginning: Morales's boss, Vincente Luis Torreno, is a Cuban exile fanatically determined to corner the world sugar market by tweaking the strings in Cuba just at the moment Castro's sure to be ousted. The geopolitical thrust-and-parry of Torreno's scheme, which would be a slice of rare roast beef for many another writer, doesn't carry the slightest weight or authority here. Instead, we get snapshots of Deal as caring (but reluctant) landlord, Deal as sensitive support in his wife's hour of need (though clearly the man is no picnic to be married to), Deal as the unlikely nemesis of power-mad Torreno and dead-eyed Morales. Since Deal continues to do nothing heroic (that's his shtick), this thriller remains inert, giving far too much away from the beginning and keeping only the most inconsequential secrets for last. ($45,000 ad/promo; author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1994

ISBN: 0-06-017732-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

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 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

Did you like this book?