Heavy on cream and light on plot, this trio is most likely to appeal to fans of eggnog and coastal Maine.

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EGGNOG MURDER

Three tales of mayhem-by-eggnog penned by Maine boosters Ross, Hollis, and Meier.

Hollis and Meier go full-throttle, with victims succumbing to shock after chugging the holiday treat. In Meier’s novella, which furnishes the collection’s title, nut-allergic Dorcas Philpott meets her end after drinking eggnog made with almond milk. Reporter Lucy Stone (British Manor Murder, 2016, etc.) has little sympathy for the deceased since the greedy cow shouldn’t have been drinking anything that fattening to begin with. (Hearty appetites are acceptable only for the svelte Stones, who spend much of the holiday complaining about eldest daughter Elizabeth, home from her job in Paris, who wants to feed the family tiny French-style meals.) But Lucy fears that the fatal bottle of eggnog may have been meant for her friend Phyllis Lundgren’s husband, Wilf, so she investigates anyway. The victim in Hollis’ Death by Eggnog is even less appealing than Dorcas. Librarian Agatha Farnsworth browbeats employees, threatens patrons, and terrorizes children until she’s dispatched by eggnog containing real milk, which triggers her dairy allergy. Hayley Powell (Death of a Pumpkin Carver, 2016, etc.) hunts Farnsworth’s killer, who proves considerably more devious than the food critic would have imagined. In Nogged Off, Ross gives readers a welcome break from anaphylaxis. Imogen Geinkes doesn’t kill anyone with her concoction; she just gives all her co-workers food poisoning. Out of a job, Imogen can’t take over the lease on Julia Snowden’s New York apartment. But she does persuade gentle Julia (Fogged Inn, 2016, etc.) to bring her home to spend the holiday in Busman’s Harbor. The trip proves chaotic and ultimately deadly, but quick-thinking Julia finally restores order.

Heavy on cream and light on plot, this trio is most likely to appeal to fans of eggnog and coastal Maine.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4967-0447-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

HEAVEN, MY HOME

The redoubtable Locke follows up her Edgar-winning Bluebird, Bluebird (2017) with an even knottier tale of racism and deceit set in the same scruffy East Texas boondocks.

It’s the 2016 holiday season, and African American Texas Ranger Darren Matthews has plenty of reasons for disquiet besides the recent election results. Chiefly there’s the ongoing fallout from Darren’s double murder investigation involving the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. He and his wife are in counseling. He’s become a “desk jockey” in the Rangers’ Houston office while fending off suspicions from a district attorney who thinks Darren hasn’t been totally upfront with him about a Brotherhood member’s death. (He hasn’t.) And his not-so-loving mother is holding on to evidence that could either save or crucify him with the district attorney. So maybe it’s kind of a relief for Darren to head for the once-thriving coastal town of Jefferson, where the 9-year-old son of another Brotherhood member serving hard time for murdering a black man has gone missing while motorboating on a nearby lake. Then again, there isn’t that much relief given the presence of short-fused white supremacists living not far from descendants of the town’s original black and Native American settlers—one of whom, an elderly black man, is a suspect in the possible murder of the still-missing boy. Meanwhile, Darren’s cultivating his own suspicions of chicanery involving the boy’s wealthy and imperious grandmother, whose own family history is entwined with the town’s antebellum past and who isn’t so fazed with her grandson’s disappearance that she can’t have a lavish dinner party at her mansion. In addition to her gifts for tight pacing and intense lyricism, Locke shows with this installment of her Highway 59 series a facility for unraveling the tangled strands of the Southwest’s cultural legacy and weaving them back together with the volatile racial politics and traumatic economic stresses of the present day. With her confident narrative hands on the wheel, this novel manages to evoke a portrait of Trump-era America—which, as someone observes of a pivotal character in the story, resembles “a toy ball tottering on a wire fence” that “could fall either way.”

Locke’s advancement here is so bracing that you can’t wait to discover what happens next along her East Texas highway.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-36340-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Mulholland Books/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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