Hull’s third Frugalicious entry does for shopping what Joanne Fluke does for pastry, making sure the busy reader doesn’t...

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SWEETHEART DEAL

Maddie Michaels, reality TV’s Mrs. Frugalicious (Eternally 21, 2013, etc.), takes her show south of the border to teach America how to plan a destination wedding, complete with corpse.

Afraid to admit to her adorable adolescent twins, FJ and Trent, or her bratty stepdaughter, Eloise, that she and their father, Frank, are on the rocks, Maddie hauls the whole clan down to the Riviera Maya, where her producer, Anastasia Chastain, plans to tie the knot with South Metro Police Detective Philip Stone at the plush Hacienda de la Fortuna—all for a fraction of what a conventional wedding would cost in the States. The trick, as Hull tediously documents in innumerable footnotes and bullet points, is that not as many guests will come to a destination wedding that requires them to spend a bundle on airfare. Plus, you can often get the resort to throw in perks that can expand your reception feast or double as bridesmaids’ gifts. The Hacienda, for instance, offers Maddie’s family a trip to the local eco-water park for attending a sales information session led by handsome Alejandro Espinoza. Alejandro is muy persuasive, and Maddie is tempted not only by the timeshares he pushes, but by the notes tucked under her pillow begging her to meet him by the pool. Since she’s still legally wed, she refuses, only to hear Anastasia’s bridesmaids shriek in chorus as Alejandro’s body in discovered in said pool. The police call the drowning an accident, but Anastasia convinces Maddie that a murder investigation would make much better TV. So Mrs. Frugalicious begins a carefully scripted inquiry into how Alejandro, a skilled swimmer who limited himself to one drink a day, could have gotten drunk enough to drown in a hotel pool. Even with cue cards, Mrs. Frugalicious manages to lead her family into mortal danger as she unwittingly unmasks a killer.

Hull’s third Frugalicious entry does for shopping what Joanne Fluke does for pastry, making sure the busy reader doesn’t have to choose between a mystery, a wedding planning manual, and a guide to timeshare investments by putting everything into one volume.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7387-3491-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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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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The racism, classism, and sexism of 50 years ago wrapped up in a stylish, sexy, suspenseful period drama about a newsroom...

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LADY IN THE LAKE

Baltimore in the 1960s is the setting for this historical fiction about a real-life unsolved drowning.

In her most ambitious work to date, Lippman (Sunburn, 2018, etc.) tells the story of Maddie Schwartz, an attractive 37-year-old Jewish housewife who abruptly leaves her husband and son to pursue a long-held ambition to be a journalist, and Cleo Sherwood, an African-American cocktail waitress about whom little is known. Sherwood's body was found in a lake in a city park months after she disappeared, and while no one else seems to care enough to investigate, Maddie becomes obsessed—partly due to certain similarities she perceives between her life and Cleo's, partly due to her faith in her own detective skills. The story unfolds from Maddie's point of view as well as that of Cleo's ghost, who seems to be watching from behind the scenes, commenting acerbically on Maddie's nosing around like a bull in a china shop after getting a job at one of the city papers. Added to these are a chorus of Baltimore characters who make vivid one-time appearances: a jewelry store clerk, an about-to-be-murdered schoolgirl, "Mr. Helpline," a bartender, a political operative, a waitress, a Baltimore Oriole, the first African-American female policewoman (these last two are based on real people), and many more. Maddie's ambition propels her forward despite the cost to others, including the family of the deceased and her own secret lover, a black policeman. Lippman's high-def depiction of 1960s Baltimore and the atmosphere of the newsroom at that time—she interviewed associates of her father, Baltimore Sun journalist Theo Lippman Jr., for the details—ground the book in fascinating historical fact.The literary gambit she balances atop that foundation—the collage of voices—works impressively, showcasing the author's gift for rhythms of speech. The story is bigger than the crime, and the crime is bigger than its solution, making Lippman's skill as a mystery novelist work as icing on the cake.

The racism, classism, and sexism of 50 years ago wrapped up in a stylish, sexy, suspenseful period drama about a newsroom and the city it covers.

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-239001-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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