Another sharp mystery in a continually improving series.

THE HORNED OWL

A SAM CHITTO MYSTERY

In the third installment of Clifton’s (The Bonepicker, 2017, etc.) thriller series, Detective Sam Chitto of the Choctaw Tribal Police in southeastern Oklahoma tries to prove a high schooler innocent of murder while also digging into his own father’s decade-old homicide.

Chitto first hears about Bobby Taneyhill from two concerned members of the Choctaw Nation Tribal Council, one of whom is his mother, Mattie Chitto. She and June Biggers want him to help the teen, who’s been charged with first-degree murder for the mutilation death of 33-year-old Muriel Simpson. Authorities are discounting an alibi supplied by Bobby’s tribal-elder grandfather, Charlie Walker, and instead rely on circumstantial evidence: the boy’s graphic novels, which are filled with savage imagery that he drew. The murder victim had worked at the Spiro Mounds Archaeology Center, near where Chitto’s cop father, Will, and Will’s partner, Bert Gilly, were murdered 10 years ago. Chitto’s boss, Dan Blackfox, allows him to pursue a low-profile investigation into Bobby’s case, which is currently in trial, but he tells him to avoid his father’s. Regardless, Chitto delves into both from a rented cabin near the Spiro Mounds, bringing along his trusty hound, Boycott, and consulting with his administrative assistant, Jasmine Birdsong, by phone. He already has a suspect in his father’s murder, but he’s still searching for one for the more recent homicide. Clifton dives right into the mystery at the start of the novel, opening with Mattie and June’s emphatic entrance into Chitto’s office, soaking wet from a thunderstorm. The concurrent investigations are equally engrossing; at one point, for example, Chitto questions why he never learned of a relevant phone call that Gilly received; meanwhile, his suspect list for the Simpson murder wisely includes Bobby. There’s more focus on the present-day case, which intermittently puts Chitto in the role of spectator, watching the trial unfold in the courtroom. It’s surprisingly exhilarating to watch Chitto race to catch up with two cases that are already well underway. The various characters are vibrant, but Jasmine, once again, shines brightest, handling the bulk of the story’s dry humor; in one scene, for instance, she demands a raise but immediately settles for two weeks of Chitto's buying her coffee.

Another sharp mystery in a continually improving series.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9985284-2-7

Page Count: 316

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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