Although Johnston (Bite the Biscuit, 2015, etc.) is as heavy-handed with references to luck as the Destiny citizens are in...

KNOCK ON WOOD

A newcomer to a town obsessed with luck tries to solve the murder of her friend’s suitor while keeping her fingers crossed.

Though some think her past run-ins with danger have been bad luck, Rory Chasen is determined that moving to superstition-obsessed Destiny, California, will give her a charmed life. Sure, she got tied up with a murder as a new resident of the town, but that’s all in the past. Now she’s lucked into the perfect job selling pet wares at the Lucky Dog Boutique, and she’s even got a lucky black-and-white pup, Pluckie. Rory hopes her good luck will rub off on her friend Gemma while the latter is in town. It’s not that Gemma is typically plagued with bad luck, but she’s struggling to get over a recent breakup with fellow librarian Frank. Rory’s not sure she can be any help in the romance department—she’s been a mess since she lost her fiance—but she’s hoping to lift Gemma’s spirits in other ways. In any event, Gemma doesn’t seem to need Rory’s help with romance because after only a few days in town, she’s the focus of multiple potential suitors. Unfortunately, one of these is Frank, who’s turned up uninvited and unwanted. The misfortune doesn’t stop there, for Rory and Pluckie soon come upon the body of another of the men interested in Gemma. Both Gemma and Rory are potential suspects, and the citizens of Destiny wonder if either of them could be bad luck. Rory just hopes for the chance to redeem herself to Police Chief Justin Halbertson, not simply as an innocent party, but maybe as something more personal.

Although Johnston (Bite the Biscuit, 2015, etc.) is as heavy-handed with references to luck as the Destiny citizens are in seeding their sidewalks with heads-up pennies, the over-the-top characterization works.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7387-4552-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Midnight Ink/Llewellyn

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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