MURDEROUS MEANS

A SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA MYSTERY

From the Southern California Mysteries series , Vol. 6

A fun and finely crafted cozy L.A. whodunit.

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An aspiring private investigator takes on a case at the behest of a psychic in Sideris’ sixth mystery in a series.

One week ago, 72-year-old JoJo Means, the matriarch of the wealthy but dysfunctional Means family, died alone in her well-appointed Victorian home in the tiny, elite Los Angeles suburb of Los Ranchos. There was no sign of foul play—she was found lying peacefully in her bed—but the deceased’s sister, Marti Means, is convinced that the fit, active JoJo must have been murdered, and Marti’s personal psychic, Heidi Honeyman, agrees. JoJo had signed a document stating that she didn’t want an autopsy (she “couldn’t stand the thought of being cut up in some lab,” says JoJo’s son, Bart), so Marti hires Corrie Locke, a junior attorney and not-yet-licensed private investigator, to dig into the evidence surrounding JoJo’s death. Corrie has a day job in the legal department of a film studio, but she and her assistant, Veera Bankhead, have been moonlighting as PIs. Corrie doesn’t think much of psychic intuition, although her boyfriend, Michael, pretends to be a psychic to attract supernaturally inclined clients, and Corrie isn’t afraid of bending the truth to get her small business off the ground. She’s initially skeptical that JoJo was killed, but as she starts sniffing around the Means family, she realizes there are several cash-strapped relatives with the motivation, and the means, to commit a murder—and maybe more than one. Over the course of this novel, Sideris writes in clean, taut sentences, inflecting moments of tension with humor: “A man lay on his side, arms bent in front of him, fingers clasped together. He could’ve been sleeping except for the pistol near his bloody head.” In Corrie, the author has created an endearing and energetic protagonist who lies and trespasses with ease, and whose unusual weapon of choice is the Japanese throwing star (although she also carries a handgun, like many literary PIs). Overall, this is a well-plotted mystery that will surely win more fans to Sideris’ series.

A fun and finely crafted cozy L.A. whodunit.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781685125004

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Level Best Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

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. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

EVERYONE IN MY FAMILY HAS KILLED SOMEONE

This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.

In this mystery, the narrator constantly adds commentary on how the story is constructed.

In 1929, during the golden age of mysteries, a (real-life) writer named Ronald Knox published the “10 Commandments of Detective Fiction,” 10 rules that mystery writers should obey in order to “play fair.” When faced with his own mystery story, our narrator, an author named Ernest Cunningham who "write[s] books about how to write books," feels like he must follow these rules himself. The story seemingly begins on the night his brother Michael calls to ask him to help bury a body—and shows up with the body and a bag containing $267,000. Fast-forward three years, and Ernie’s family has gathered at a ski resort to celebrate Michael’s release from prison. The family dynamics are, to put it lightly, complicated—and that’s before a man shows up dead in the snow and Michael arrives with a coffin in a truck. When the local cop arrests Michael for the murder, things get even more complicated: There are more deaths; Michael tells a story about a coverup involving their father, who was part of a gang called the Sabers; and Ernie still has (most of) the money and isn’t sure whom to trust or what to do with it. Eventually, Ernie puts all the pieces together and gathers the (remaining) family members and various extras for the great denouement. As the plot develops, it becomes clear that there’s a pretty interesting mystery at the heart of this novel, but Stevenson’s postmodern style has Ernie constantly breaking the fourth wall to explain how the structure of his story meets the criteria for a successful detective story. Some readers are drawn to mysteries because they love the formula and logic—this one’s for them. If you like the slow, sometimes-creepy, sometimes-comforting unspooling of a good mystery, it might not be your cup of tea—though the ending, to be fair, is still something of a surprise.

This book and its author are cleverer than you and want you to know it.

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-327902-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Mariner Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

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