Fun to read, as always with Moriarty's books, but try not to think about it or it will stop making sense.

NINE PERFECT STRANGERS

Nine people gather at a luxurious health resort in the Australian bushland. Will they have sex, fall in love, get killed, or maybe just lose weight?

Moriarty (Truly Madly Guilty, 2014, etc.) is known for darkly humorous novels set in the suburbs of Sydney—though her most famous book, Big Little Lies (2014), has been transported to Monterey, California, by Reese Witherspoon's HBO series. Her new novel moves away from the lives of prosperous parents to introduce a more eclectic group of people who've signed up for a 10-day retreat at Tranquillium House, a remote spa run by the messianic Masha, "an extraordinary-looking woman. A supermodel. An Olympic athlete. At least six feet tall, with corpse-like white skin and green eyes so striking and huge they were almost alien-like." This was the moment when the guests should probably have fled, but they all decided to stay (perhaps because their hefty payments were nonrefundable?). The book's title is slightly misleading, since not all the guests are strangers to each other. There are two family groups: Ben and Jessica Chandler, a young couple whose relationship broke down after they won the lottery, and the Marconis, Napolean and Heather and their 20-year-old daughter, Zoe, who are trying to recover after the death of Zoe's twin brother, Zach. Carmel Schneider is a divorced housewife who wants to get her mojo back, Lars Lee is an abnormally handsome divorce lawyer who's addicted to spas, and Tony Hogburn is a former professional footballer who wants to get back into shape. Though all these people have their own chapters, the main character is Frances Welty, a romance writer who needs a pick-me-up after having had her latest novel rejected and having been taken in by an internet scam—she fell in love with a man she met on Facebook and sent money to help his (nonexistent) son, who'd been in a (nonexistent) car accident. How humiliating for a writer to fall for a fictional person, Frances thinks, in her characteristically wry way. When the guests arrive, they're given blood tests (why?) and told they're going to start off with a five-day "noble silence" in which they're not even supposed to make eye contact with each other. As you can imagine, something fishy is going on, and while Moriarty displays her usual humor and Frances in particular is an appealing character, it's all a bit ridiculous.

Fun to read, as always with Moriarty's books, but try not to think about it or it will stop making sense.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-06982-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

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THE SILENT PATIENT

A woman accused of shooting her husband six times in the face refuses to speak.

"Alicia Berenson was thirty-three years old when she killed her husband. They had been married for seven years. They were both artists—Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer." Michaelides' debut is narrated in the voice of psychotherapist Theo Faber, who applies for a job at the institution where Alicia is incarcerated because he's fascinated with her case and believes he will be able to get her to talk. The narration of the increasingly unrealistic events that follow is interwoven with excerpts from Alicia's diary. Ah, yes, the old interwoven diary trick. When you read Alicia's diary you'll conclude the woman could well have been a novelist instead of a painter because it contains page after page of detailed dialogue, scenes, and conversations quite unlike those in any journal you've ever seen. " 'What's the matter?' 'I can't talk about it on the phone, I need to see you.' 'It's just—I'm not sure I can make it up to Cambridge at the minute.' 'I'll come to you. This afternoon. Okay?' Something in Paul's voice made me agree without thinking about it. He sounded desperate. 'Okay. Are you sure you can't tell me about it now?' 'I'll see you later.' Paul hung up." Wouldn't all this appear in a diary as "Paul wouldn't tell me what was wrong"? An even more improbable entry is the one that pins the tail on the killer. While much of the book is clumsy, contrived, and silly, it is while reading passages of the diary that one may actually find oneself laughing out loud.

Amateurish, with a twist savvy readers will see coming from a mile away.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-30169-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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