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All twisty and turny and the things this genre should be, but the ending’s entirely predictable.

Two women whose lives are connected by a deadly old house embark on a collision course in Unger’s latest thriller.

Claudia Bishop’s daughter, Raven, hates her new home. The 15-year-old, who’s picked on at school because she’s both new and impossibly beautiful, longs for her old life in Manhattan while her mother sets about renovating a beat-up farmhouse in rural New Jersey and starting a blog about it. A single mother, Claudia left her husband, Ayers, years ago; their marriage fell apart after she was brutally raped by a stranger who broke into their apartment, and Claudia found out she was pregnant soon afterward. Claudia raised Raven with full knowledge of the rape that may—or may not—have produced her, and Raven is now considering a paternity test to determine whether Ayers or her mother’s rapist is her biological father. Meanwhile, in New York, martial artist Zoey hunts the men who killed her parents and tried to kill her when she was a young teenager. When Josh Beckham, a handyman who lives near Claudia, is brought in to fix some things and Zoey finds one of the men who killed her parents, the women find themselves tied to one another by the home in which Claudia now lives. Unger plots an intricate story with multiple points of view and converging storylines. With plenty of action and a brisk pace, the author manages to keep all the balls in the air even when the dizzying slate of characters overlaps and things occasionally become confusing. The convoluted story is absorbing, and Unger introduces intriguing characters (although Raven comes across as relentlessly selfish and Claudia is a milquetoast mother). However, the book holds its own until the final resolution, which feels both rushed and tacked on as a means to resolve all the collective mysteries and loose ends kicked up in the story.

All twisty and turny and the things this genre should be, but the ending’s entirely predictable.

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0167-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be...

Box takes another break from his highly successful Joe Pickett series (Stone Cold, 2014, etc.) for a stand-alone about a police detective, a developmentally delayed boy, and a package everyone in North Dakota wants to grab.

Cassandra Dewell can’t leave Montana’s Lewis and Clark County fast enough for her new job as chief investigator for Jon Kirkbride, sheriff of Bakken County. She leaves behind no memories worth keeping: her husband is dead, her boss has made no bones about disliking her, and she’s looking forward to new responsibilities and the higher salary underwritten by North Dakota’s sudden oil boom. But Bakken County has its own issues. For one thing, it’s cold—a whole lot colder than the coldest weather Cassie’s ever imagined. For another, the job she turns out to have been hired for—leading an investigation her new boss doesn’t feel he can entrust to his own force—makes her queasy. The biggest problem, though, is one she doesn’t know about until it slaps her in the face. A fatal car accident that was anything but accidental has jarred loose a stash of methamphetamines and cash that’s become the center of a battle between the Sons of Freedom, Bakken County’s traditional drug sellers, and MS-13, the Salvadorian upstarts who are muscling in on their territory. It’s a setup that leaves scant room for law enforcement officers or for Kyle Westergaard, the 12-year-old paperboy damaged since birth by fetal alcohol syndrome, who’s walked away from the wreck with a prize all too many people would kill for.

A suspenseful, professional-grade north country procedural whose heroine, a deft mix of compassion and attitude, would be welcome to return and tie up the gaping loose end Box leaves. The unrelenting cold makes this the perfect beach read.

Pub Date: July 28, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-58321-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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