Told in a series of flashbacks and fast-forwards, Kelly’s tartan noir debut is less a mystery than a shaggy dog story with a...

A FINE HOUSE IN TRINITY

A ne’er-do-well Scot inherits a mansion.

Joe Staines never had much of a family. His Polish grandfather, Josef Wisniewski, leaves him a new British name (picked at random off a map of Scotland) and very little else. His da works too hard to have much time for Joe or his brother, and when his ma takes to drink and disappears, his da tells his sons she’s dead. Small wonder that young Joe takes up with Lachlan Stoddart, a schoolmate who’s shunned by most other kids as fat, slow, and greedy but one who offers the chance to spend afternoons at a home stocked with endless treats: video games, remote-control cars, and free-flowing cash provided by two indulgent parents. Guthrie Stoddart is the reputed head of a gang that makes that cash by selling protection, but it’s Lachlan’s ma, short, squat Isabella, who strikes fear into wee Joe’s heart. Jump ahead a few years. Guthrie’s disappeared. Isabella’s dead. So is Lachlan, who leaves the remainder of the Stoddart fortune to his old pal Stainsie. Attorney Charlotte Spencely reminds him that a pile of debts must be settled before he takes possession of the estate’s main asset: a large house in Edinburgh’s Trinity district. But Joe’s not one to stand on ceremony. When Marianne, his girlfriend, chucks him out with a bucket of mop water, he breaks into the Trinity house—which after all will be his when all the legal folderol is done—and dosses down there. Breaking and entering, even into a house he has some prospect of owning, puts Joe on the wrong side of Old Bill, and soon he’s facing his old pal DS Danny Jamison, who’s perturbed not only over the deaths of Isabella and Lachlan Stoddart, but that of a young girl whose body is squirreled away in a window seat of Joe’s fine house.

Told in a series of flashbacks and fast-forwards, Kelly’s tartan noir debut is less a mystery than a shaggy dog story with a hero well worthy of the starring role.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2016

ISBN: 9781-9-10124-95-6

Page Count: 302

Publisher: Dufour

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

BADLANDS

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

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