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

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 15, 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.

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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Irritatingly trite woman-in-periler from lawyer-turned-novelist Baldacci. Moving away from the White House and the white-shoe Washington law firms of his previous bestsellers (Absolute Power, 1996; Total Control, 1997), Baldacci comes up with LuAnn Tyler, a spunky, impossibly beautiful, white-trash truck stop waitress with a no-good husband and a terminally cute infant daughter in tow. Some months after the birth of Lisa, LuAnn gets a phone call summoning her to a make-shift office in an unrented storefront of the local shopping mall. There, she gets a Faustian offer from a Mr. Jackson, a monomaniacal, cross-dressing manipulator who apparently knows the winning numbers in the national lottery before the numbers are drawn. It seems that LuAnn fits the media profile of what a lottery winner should be—poor, undereducated but proud—and if she's willing to buy the right ticket at the right time and transfer most of her winnings to Jackson, she'll be able to retire in luxury. Jackson fails to inform her, however, that if she refuses his offer, he'll have her killed. Before that can happen, as luck would have it, LuAnn barely escapes death when one of husband Duane's drug deals goes bad. She hops on a first-class Amtrak sleeper to Manhattan with a hired executioner in pursuit. But executioner Charlie, one of Jackson's paid handlers, can't help but hear wedding bells when he sees LuAnn cooing with her daughter. Alas, a winning $100- million lottery drawing complicates things. Jackson spirits LuAnn and Lisa away to Sweden, with Charlie in pursuit. Never fear. Not only will LuAnn escape a series of increasingly violent predicaments, but she'll also outwit Jackson, pay an enormous tax bill to the IRS, and have enough left over to honeymoon in Switzerland. Too preposterous to work as feminine wish-fulfillment, too formulaic to be suspenseful. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)

Pub Date: Dec. 2, 1997

ISBN: 0-446-52259-7

Page Count: 528

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1997

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