Three tepid treats for the holiday season.


Three Christmas greetings bring clues to murder.

Meier’s title story presents Lucy Stone on the verge of realizing a lifelong dream. Since three of their four children are grown and living on their own, she wants her carpenter husband, Bill, to knock out the wall between their cramped bedroom and an adjacent room to create a luxurious master suite. As Bill bangs away at the lath and plaster, Lucy finds an antique Christmas card with a nasty message hidden in the baseboard. Lucy’s search for the sender circles back to the long-ago murder of a high school student. Although her inquiry has moments of high drama, including a blizzard that shuts down the town, the solution is a letdown. The miserable missive in Hollis’ Death of a Christmas Carol is sent by Carol Waterman to three friends: Hayley Powell, food writer for the Island Times; Rosana Moretti, wife of the Times’ publisher; and Hayley’s friend Mona Barnes, a lobsterwoman. Borrowing from the classic film A Letter to Three Wives, Carol’s card reveals her plans to run off with the husband of one of the friends, plans that are foiled by her death. Neither the solving of the mystery nor the unmasking of the errant spouse offers any holiday cheer. Ehrhart’s Death of a Christmas Card Crafter tells the sad tale of popular high school art teacher Karma Karling, whom readers never meet before her body is found in a local Christmas tree lot. She leaves behind the last of a Twelve-Days-of-Christmas–themed series of cards featuring not 12 but 13 drummers drumming. Neighbors Pamela Paterson and Bettina Fraser use that extra image to track down Karma’s killer—a solution that comes so far out of left field it could have been sent there by Willie Mays.

Three tepid treats for the holiday season.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4967-2822-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

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Meet today’s LAPD, with both good and bad apples reduced to reacting to crimes defensively instead of trying to prevent them, unless of course they’re willing to break the rules.

New Year’s Eve 2020 finds Detective Renée Ballard, survivor of rape and Covid-19, partnered with Detective Lisa Moore, of Hollywood’s Sexual Assault Unit, in search of leads on the Midnight Men, a tag team of rapists who assaulted women on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve without leaving any forensic evidence behind. The pair are called to the scene of a shooting that would have gone to West Bureau Homicide if the unit weren’t already stretched to the limit, a case that should be handed over to West Bureau ASAP. But Ballard gets her teeth into the murder of body shop owner Javier Raffa, who reportedly bought his way out of the gang Las Palmas. The news that Raffa’s been shot by the same weapon that killed rapper Albert Lee 10 years ago sends Ballard once more to Harry Bosch, the poster boy for retirements that drive the LAPD crazy. Both victims had taken on silent partners in order to liquidate their debts, and there’s every indication that the partners were linked. That’s enough for Ballard and Bosch to launch a shadow investigation even as Ballard, abandoned by Moore, who’s flown the coop for the weekend, works feverishly to identify the Midnight Men on her own. As usual in this stellar series, the path to the last act is paved with false leads, interdepartmental squabbles, and personal betrayals, and the structure sometimes sways in the breeze. But no one who follows Ballard and Bosch to the end will be disappointed.

A bracing test of the maxim that “the department always comes first. The department always wins.”

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-48564-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Slow moving and richly layered.


A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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