All this musing and fretting pushes the murder, when it finally arrives, into the back pages of Meier’s 25th, and the...

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CANDY CORN MURDER

The Tinker’s Cove Giant Pumpkin Fest turns into a giant pain in the squash for The Pennysaver’s intrepid reporter Lucy Stone (Christmas Carol Murder, 2013, etc.).

It isn’t as if Lucy doesn’t have enough on her plate. Her son, Toby, and daughter-in-law, Molly, are off studying fish farming in Haiti, leaving her in charge of 4-year-old Patrick. Between Molly’s strict ban on sugar and television and the draconian safety rules head teacher Heidi Bloom has instituted at Little Prodigies preschool, Lucy’s hard-pressed to keep up with her active grandson, who wants to be a ninja for Halloween, when, naturally, all the ninja costumes are sold out. Her husband, Bill, lavishes his affections on Priscilla, the perhaps 500-pound beauty he hopes to enter in the festival’s Giant Pumpkin contest. Bill’s even been paying scruffy Evan Wickes, local jack-of-all-trades, to help him build a catapult designed to win the pumpkin-hurling contest. Still, Lucy tries her best to be upbeat as she covers a wide range of festival events, musing as she does on the creeping commercialism that’s taken over Christmas and now threatens Halloween. She even seeks out an interview with Sam “Buck” Miller, youngest in the line of proprietors of Country Cousins, a Tinker’s Cove institution that provides local residents with everything from polo shirts to tire irons. She also collaborates with former librarian Julia Ward Howe Tilley, now well into her 90s, on plans for Tinker’s Cove’s Take Back the Night Rally as her daughter, Sara, now a sophomore at Winchester College, frets about the erosion of women’s access to reproductive health care.

All this musing and fretting pushes the murder, when it finally arrives, into the back pages of Meier’s 25th, and the solution is barely a footnote.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7582-7707-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth...

THE THIRD TO DIE

In Brennan’s (Nothing To Hide, 2019, etc.) new series launch, a hard-edged female LAPD undercover cop and an ambitious FBI special agent race to catch a serial killer before he strikes again.

On paid administrative leave since an incident with a suspect went wrong, a restless Detective Kara Quinn is on an early morning run in her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, when she discovers the flayed corpse of a young nurse. In D.C., FBI Special Agent in Charge Mathias Costa is staffing the new Mobile Response Team, designed to cover rural areas underserved by law enforcement, when his boss assigns Matt and analyst Ryder Kim to Liberty Lake. The notorious Triple Killer, who murders three random victims, three days apart, every three years, has returned. With only six days to identify and catch the culprit, and only three days until he kills again, the team is “on a very tight clock.” What should be on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense turns into a slog marred by pedestrian prose (“she heard nothing except birds chirping…”), a convoluted plot slowed down by a focus on dull bureaucratic infighting, and flat character development. The sole exception is the vividly drawn Kara. Smart, angry, defensive, complicated, she fascinates both the reader and Matt ("Kara Quinn was different—and he couldn’t put his finger on why”).

Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth Salander.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7783-0944-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

WHITE HOT

Lukewarm thriller from bestselling Brown (Hello, Darkness, 2003, etc.).

Sayre Hoyle doesn’t believe her brother Danny committed suicide, and she’s returned home to prove it—but it seems nothing ever changes in Destiny, Louisiana. The small town looks the same as ever, and the same good old boys are sitting in the same vinyl booths at the same diner, conniving and backstabbing and telling lies. Too bad one of them just happens to be Sayre’s daddy, Huff Hoyle. A self-made rich man in a poor parish, he owns a smoke-belching iron foundry, a hellish place that at least provides employment for the beaten-down men of Destiny. If industrial accidents do happen in one of ’em now and then, well, that’s God’s will. Tough-talking Huff don’t want the government OSHA boys anywhere near his foundry, and that goes double for union organizers and other un-American busybodies. Sayre’s heard it all before—and still doesn’t trust either him or her creepy older brother, Chris, who took so much pleasure in tormenting her when they were young. And there’s Huff’s new right-hand man, lawyer Beck Merchant, to contend with. What exactly does Beck stand to gain by his involvement with Huff and cronies? If only he weren’t so good-looking and sexy. . . . Back to the story: Did Slap Watkins, jug-eared, degenerate scion of inbred bayou-dwellers, kill gentleman Danny in a fit of rage when Danny refused to hire Slap’s fellow parolees? Nah. Slap doesn’t have the brains or coordination to kill a June bug. Back to the subplot: Will the tyrannical Huff resort to violence when his ironworkers defy him and go out on strike? And back to the reason Sayre hates Huff: He forced her to have an abortion, performed by an incompetent doctor who tied her, screaming, to the table in his back room. And now for the reason Beck hates Huff . . . .

Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4553-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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