Dedicated readers may relish exploring this unusual branch of the military, but not necessarily the impersonal story in...

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SEQUENCE

A suspenseful first novel from biotechnologist and nonfiction author Andrews (Body Bazaar, 2001, etc.) offers within a workmanlike plot an insiders’ look into the armed-services pathology lab.

A serial killer is on the loose, strangling and raping women and then tattooing their breasts, until the death of one high-profile victim, and friend of President Bradley Cotter himself, drives the government into action. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) handles forensics work for the military, and its arrogant new head, Colonel Jack Wiatt, assigns geneticist Dr. Alex Blake to head the “Tattoo Killer” team. Thirty-something, “beguiling” but not intellectual, the child of a Vietnam vet killed in action, Alex is a dedicated sequencer of DNA, but resentful of being forced to take on the strangler case. Alex is at loose ends after struggling through an unraveled relationship, and fed up with the sexism that seems to be endemic to her line of work. But she forges on and employs her detective powers, discovering, for instance, that the killer used a cherry-flavored condom; more difficult is demonstrating to Wiatt that she is a team player. In fact, Alex spends much of her time testifying in front of a congressional committee defending the beleaguered AFIP, where she meets the handsome bachelor congressman from Texas, David Thorne, himself on the rebound from his failed relationship with an older, divorced senator. On a hunch, Alex suggests that the armed-forces genetic pool be tested against a specimen from the killer, and the result points to Admiral Kenneth Mason, who turns out to have the same creepy tattoo on his breast. But while the DNA isn’t exact, it is overlapping—meaning a relative might be involved. Andrews attempts to bring out the human story behind Alex’s work—developing her friendship with colleague Barbara and her deaf teenaged daughter, Lana—though the author is more skillful at handling the political and technical aspects of her story, such as backroom wheeling-and-dealing in the Rayburn House Office Building.

Dedicated readers may relish exploring this unusual branch of the military, but not necessarily the impersonal story in which it’s couched.

Pub Date: June 19, 2006

ISBN: 0-312-35270-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...

ECHO BURNING

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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