First-novel shakiness is plainly evident, but a sustaining amiability pervades all, and the horse stuff is wonderful.

CUT THROAT

Not quite Dick Francis, though this horsy English debut clears its fences neatly.

Discredited—in effect blacklisted—after a costly, headline-grabbing spill (not his fault), American show-jumping rider Ross Wakelin goes on an all-out bender. Just one, but he’s uncomfortably aware that it could have been prelude to a destructive series if not for the timely intervention of loyal Lindsay Cresswell. She’s just a friend, Ross keeps telling himself, since it’s understood between the two that her heart is irrevocably committed elsewhere. Romance aside, however, Lindsay represents redemption, presenting Ross with an unexpected and most welcome job offer, one that takes him to England and the chance at a longed-for fresh start. Lindsay’s uncle, Colonel John Preston, owns Oakley Manor in Wiltshire, a small show-jumping yard suddenly in the market for an experienced rider. Despite initial misgivings, the colonel allows himself to be persuaded by his niece’s special pleading, and Ross is hired. He likes the colonel and loves the horses, but there are minuses that become oppressively apparent. To begin with, there’s Leo Jackson, the sullen, snarly groom whose disenchantment with Ross is as instant as it is inexplicable. Even more unsettling is the feeling Ross can’t shake that Leo is merely the vanguard of other baleful forces aimed at Oakley Manor. And he’s right. Blackmail, character assassination, threats, treachery, and attempted murder soon serve to darken his life, as if the competitiveness, the physical and emotional wear and tear, the unavoidable ups and downs of professional show-jumping weren’t tribulation enough. Still, to balance the evil that’s inherent in the loathsome Leo, there’s lovely Lindsay, whose irrevocable commitment, it turns out, may have been overstated.

First-novel shakiness is plainly evident, but a sustaining amiability pervades all, and the horse stuff is wonderful.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-09-179380-7

Page Count: 422

Publisher: Hutchinson/Trafalgar

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2002

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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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Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

OUT OF RANGE

Crime-fighting Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett outdoes himself during a temporary transfer from sleepy Saddlestring to fashionable Jackson Hole.

Will Jensen, the Jackson game warden, was a great guy and a model warden, but once his wife left him six months ago, he spiraled into madness and suicide, and now Joe’s been called to replace him. The transition is anything but smooth. There’s no question of Joe’s family coming with him, so he’s reduced to hoping he can get a signal for the cell-phone calls he squeezes into his busy schedule. En route to his new posting, Joe has to pursue a marauding grizzly. He arrives to meet a formidable series of challenges. Cantankerous outfitter Smoke Van Horn wants to go on attracting elk with illegal salt licks without the new warden’s interference. Animal Liberation Network activist Pi Stevenson wants him to publicize her cause and adopt a vegan diet. Developer Don Ennis wants to open a housing development for millionaires who like their meat free of additives. Ennis’s trophy wife Stella simply wants Joe—and he wants her back. As he wrestles with these demands, and with a supervisor riled over Joe’s track record of destroying government property in pursuit of bad guys (Trophy Hunt, 2004, etc.), Joe slowly becomes convinced that Will did not kill himself.

Joe’s fifth case is his best balanced, most deeply felt and most mystifying to date: an absolute must.

Pub Date: May 5, 2005

ISBN: 0-399-15291-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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