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A brutal, gripping look at murder in a self-enclosed community with many secrets to hide.

When two police officers stop for a bit of dalliance, screams from the nearby woods introduce them to a puzzling and horrifying murder.

Chuck Skidmore and Mona Kurtz don’t arrive in time to rescue a man who’s being burned at the stake, a sight that will haunt their dreams. Police Chief Kate Burkholder arrives on the scene with her husband, John Tomasetti, an agent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, who’ll join her and many other cops in a task force investigating the bizarre murder. Born Amish, Kate ran away from Painters Mill, found her vocation in law enforcement, and eventually came home as the police department’s chief. Over the years, she’s built up some trust with the local Amish community, who generally prefer to keep their problems to themselves. The victim is Milan Swanz, a troubled former schoolmate of Kate’s whom she’s arrested several times. A divorced man with four children, he’d been recently excommunicated by the Amish. Although Milan was far from popular, Kate meets a wall of silence from even her own brother, one of many people who had disputes with the hot-tempered man. Kate’s theory of the crime, based on stories in a book popular with the Amish, is so bizarre that she has trouble believing it herself. When her brother is arrested, she’s removed from the task force but continues to investigate, putting her in the sights of some very determined killers.

A brutal, gripping look at murder in a self-enclosed community with many secrets to hide.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781250781116

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2024

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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

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Smart, edgy, and entertaining as heck.

Against her better judgment, Lucy Chase returns to her hometown of Plumpton, Texas, for her grandmother’s birthday, knowing full well that almost everyone in town still believes she murdered her best friend five years ago, when they were in their early 20s.

Coincidentally—or is it?—Ben Owens, a true-crime podcaster, is also in town, interviewing Lucy’s family and former friends about the murder of Savannah Harper, “just the sweetest girl you ever met,” who died from several violent blows to the head. Lucy was found hours later covered in blood, with no memory of what happened. She was—and is—a woman with secrets, which has not endeared her to the people of Plumpton; their narrative is that she was always violent, secretive, difficult. But Ben wants to tell Lucy’s story; attractive and relentless, he uncovers new evidence and coaxes new interviews, and people slowly begin to question whether Lucy is truly guilty. Lucy, meanwhile, lets down her guard, and as she and Ben draw closer together, she has to finally face the truth of her past and unmask the murderer of her complicated, gorgeous, protective friend. Most of the novel is told from Lucy’s point of view, which allows for a natural unspooling of the layers of her life and her story. She’s strong, she’s prickly, and we gradually begin to understand just how wronged she has been. The story is a striking commentary on the insular and harmful nature of small-town prejudice and how women who don’t fit a certain mold are often considered outliers, if not straight-up villains. Tintera is smart to capitalize on how the true-crime podcast boom informs and infuses the current fictional thriller scene; she’s also effective at writing action that transcends the podcast structure.

Smart, edgy, and entertaining as heck.

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781250880314

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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