Series fans will appreciate the neighborhood feel in this return to Frog Ledge (Custom Baked Murder, 2016, etc.). Newly...

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PURRING AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE

When Santa is suddenly struck down, residents of a small town try to figure out who among them has been bad or good.

Back from a rare foray from her little community, Kristan “Stan” Connor is ready to indulge in the spirit of the season with the other residents of Frog Ledge. At the annual Christmas parade, Stan’s mood changes from excitement to terror when she learns that the parade has been cut short after Santa died en route. Fellow celebrant Miss Viv is frantic to figure out what happened given that the role of Santa was scheduled to have been played by Seamus McGee, her sometime boyfriend. Though Seamus, the mischievous but lovable uncle to Stan’s own boyfriend, Jake, isn’t an official resident, Stan feels like he’s practically family. Doubling the family ties, Jake’s sister, state trooper Jessie Pasquale, leads the investigation into the death. She begins by identifying the deceased Santa not as Seamus but as little-known resident Harold Dewey. Stan’s pet food business, Pawsitively Organic, is so successful that she has extra time to do a little investigating of her own, and she develops strong hunches that Harold was mistaken for Seamus and that his death is connected to a copy of the Book of Kells that’s recently gone missing. Could Seamus have been enough of a risk-taker to get himself involved with the ultimate heist? Stan’s insistence translates into meddling, and she quickly gets on Jessie’s bad side, which gets her on Jake’s bad side, which gets her wondering whether she’ll solve the murder but still end up alone.

Series fans will appreciate the neighborhood feel in this return to Frog Ledge (Custom Baked Murder, 2016, etc.). Newly arrived readers may struggle to summon the concentration required by the enormous cast of characters Mugavero cycles through.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4967-0021-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth...

THE THIRD TO DIE

In Brennan’s (Nothing To Hide, 2019, etc.) new series launch, a hard-edged female LAPD undercover cop and an ambitious FBI special agent race to catch a serial killer before he strikes again.

On paid administrative leave since an incident with a suspect went wrong, a restless Detective Kara Quinn is on an early morning run in her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, when she discovers the flayed corpse of a young nurse. In D.C., FBI Special Agent in Charge Mathias Costa is staffing the new Mobile Response Team, designed to cover rural areas underserved by law enforcement, when his boss assigns Matt and analyst Ryder Kim to Liberty Lake. The notorious Triple Killer, who murders three random victims, three days apart, every three years, has returned. With only six days to identify and catch the culprit, and only three days until he kills again, the team is “on a very tight clock.” What should be on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense turns into a slog marred by pedestrian prose (“she heard nothing except birds chirping…”), a convoluted plot slowed down by a focus on dull bureaucratic infighting, and flat character development. The sole exception is the vividly drawn Kara. Smart, angry, defensive, complicated, she fascinates both the reader and Matt ("Kara Quinn was different—and he couldn’t put his finger on why”).

Inside this bloated novel is a lean thriller starring a strong and damaged protagonist who's as compelling as Lisbeth Salander.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7783-0944-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

WHITE HOT

Lukewarm thriller from bestselling Brown (Hello, Darkness, 2003, etc.).

Sayre Hoyle doesn’t believe her brother Danny committed suicide, and she’s returned home to prove it—but it seems nothing ever changes in Destiny, Louisiana. The small town looks the same as ever, and the same good old boys are sitting in the same vinyl booths at the same diner, conniving and backstabbing and telling lies. Too bad one of them just happens to be Sayre’s daddy, Huff Hoyle. A self-made rich man in a poor parish, he owns a smoke-belching iron foundry, a hellish place that at least provides employment for the beaten-down men of Destiny. If industrial accidents do happen in one of ’em now and then, well, that’s God’s will. Tough-talking Huff don’t want the government OSHA boys anywhere near his foundry, and that goes double for union organizers and other un-American busybodies. Sayre’s heard it all before—and still doesn’t trust either him or her creepy older brother, Chris, who took so much pleasure in tormenting her when they were young. And there’s Huff’s new right-hand man, lawyer Beck Merchant, to contend with. What exactly does Beck stand to gain by his involvement with Huff and cronies? If only he weren’t so good-looking and sexy. . . . Back to the story: Did Slap Watkins, jug-eared, degenerate scion of inbred bayou-dwellers, kill gentleman Danny in a fit of rage when Danny refused to hire Slap’s fellow parolees? Nah. Slap doesn’t have the brains or coordination to kill a June bug. Back to the subplot: Will the tyrannical Huff resort to violence when his ironworkers defy him and go out on strike? And back to the reason Sayre hates Huff: He forced her to have an abortion, performed by an incompetent doctor who tied her, screaming, to the table in his back room. And now for the reason Beck hates Huff . . . .

Sluggish plot hemmed in by too much backstory and going-through-the-motions prose. Not Brown’s best.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4553-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

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