While Armstrong’s writing is spot on, the book suffers from the incorporation of reams of unexplained back story, which...

MERCILESS

Romance author turned thriller writer Armstrong continues to chronicle the adventures of former Army sniper turned law enforcement officer Mercy Gunderson in the latest tale set in western South Dakota.

Mercy served a couple of tours in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now she’s home fighting crime and her own demons. Part American Indian, Mercy works alongside FBI Special Agent Shay Turnbull to resolve the murder of Arlette Shooting Star, the niece of the newly elected tribal president. But the stars refuse to align for Mercy and Shay, and soon, there’s a second body to add to the first one. Tiptoeing through the peculiar dance required to investigate crimes involving the reservation and its residents, the two agents spar with tribal police as well as Mercy’s live-in love, Sheriff Mason Dawson. Meanwhile, there’s no love lost between brand-new cop Mercy and the more experienced Shay, either. As Mercy’s life grows more complicated, so does the case, with Mason’s son, Lex, joining them on the ranch and twist after twist piling up the suspects. Armstrong has a knack for presenting a strong sense of place and deftly brings readers onto the reservation to expose them to a culture and way of life that most will find virgin ground. She also has a way with dialogue, spicing both Mercy’s inner and outer voices with humor and a sense of irony. What doesn’t process, though, is her counterintuitive behavior as a cop. Mercy, and on at least one occasion, Shay, allows suspect after suspect to rough her up. Instead of tough, quirky and her own person, Mercy comes across as someone in need of a good psychiatrist and as lacking in moral character.

While Armstrong’s writing is spot on, the book suffers from the incorporation of reams of unexplained back story, which leaves the reader to puzzle through multiple references to past events.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-2536-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2012

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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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Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a...

PIECES OF HER

A plain-Jane daughter’s 31st birthday celebration explodes into a nightmare within a nightmare in Slaughter’s latest stand-alone.

Andrea Oliver’s always felt inferior to her parents. Her father, Gordon Oliver, is a trusts and estates attorney; her mother, Dr. Laura Oliver, is a speech therapist. Andy herself has never aspired to any career goal higher than serving as an assistant to someone important. Even when she left Belle Isle, Georgia, for the Big Apple, she got nowhere, and she was only too eager to return home when her mother announced three years ago that she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. As the two women mark Andy’s birthday by sharing lunch in a mall cafe, a crazed shooter opens fire on a mother-and-daughter pair who’ve stopped to greet Laura, and Andy’s life changes in an instant. Or rather two instants, the first when the shots ring out and the second when Laura, after inviting the killer to shoot her next, coolly and dispassionately dispatches him. It takes the dazed Andy hours to realize that her mother’s not at all who she seems to be, and by the time she’s ready to accept the fact that Laura Oliver is a woman with a past, that past is already racing to catch up with both mother and daughter. Cutting back and forth between Andy’s harrowing flight to nowhere after Laura pushes her out of her home and a backstory 30 years earlier involving the Army of the Changing World, a cell of amateur terrorists determined to strike a mortal blow against greedy capitalists and, it eventually turns out, each other as well, Slaughter (The Good Daughter, 2017, etc.) never abates her trademark intensity, and fans will feel that the story is pumping adrenalin directly into their bloodstreams. Long before the end, though, the impostures, secret identities, hidden motives, and double-crosses will have piled up past the point of no return, leaving the tale to run on adrenalin alone.

Reading anything by Slaughter is like riding a particularly scary amusement park ride. Reading this one is like booking a season ticket on a ride that never lets you off.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-243027-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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