A riveting multilevel thriller of race, sex, and mob violence that throbs with menace as it hums with wit.

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THE PARAGON HOTEL

A young white woman named Alice James flees Prohibition-era Harlem by rail with an oozing bullet wound and a satchel containing $50,000 in cash.

She makes it cross-country to Portland, Oregon, where Max, a kindly, strapping black Pullman porter and World War I veteran, whisks her away to the novel’s eponymous hotel, populated mostly with African-Americans besieged by threats from the local Ku Klux Klan. You needn’t be an aficionado of crime melodrama or period romance for those two sentences to have you at “Hello,” and Faye (Jane Steele, 2016, etc.) more than delivers on this auspicious premise with a ravishing novel that rings with nervy elegance and simmers with gnawing tension. The myriad elements of Faye’s saga are carried along by the jaunty, attentive voice of Alice, who came by her nickname “Nobody” as a young girl growing up on the crime-infested Upper West Side of Manhattan, where she acquired the ability to hide in plain sight among the neighborhood’s mobsters, leg-breakers, and bootleggers. She calls upon this chameleonlike talent as she embeds herself among her newfound protectors, some of whom are wary of her presence. But Alice has at least one Paragon resident solidly in her corner: the stunning Blossom Fontaine, a dauntingly sophisticated cabaret singer whose own past is as enigmatic and checkered as Alice’s. Blossom, Max, and the rest of the hotel’s residents dote on a precocious, inquisitive mixed-race child named Davy Lee who vanishes from their sight one afternoon at an amusement park. As the Klan begins to show signs of renewed aggression toward Portland’s black citizenry and corrupt cops start throwing their weight around the hotel, Alice is compelled to deploy her street-wise skills with greater urgency to help find Davy Lee. In doing so, she also unravels secrets within secrets that carry deadly and transformative implications for her and for everybody around her. This historical novel, which carries strong reverberations of present-day social and cultural upheavals, contains a message from a century ago that’s useful to our own time: “We need to do better at solving things.”

A riveting multilevel thriller of race, sex, and mob violence that throbs with menace as it hums with wit.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1075-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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THE MIDNIGHT CLUB

Patterson's thrillers (Virgin, 1980; Black Market, 1986) have plummeted in quality since his promising debut in The Thomas Berryman Number (1976)—with this latest being the sorriest yet: a clanky and witless policer about a criminal mastermind and the cop sworn to take him down. Aside from watching sympathetic homicide dick John ("Stef") Stefanovich comeing to terms with a wheelchair-bound life—legacy of a shotgun blast to the back by drug-and-gun-running archfiend Alexandre St.-Germain—the major interest here lies in marvelling at the author's trashing of fiction convention. The whopper comes early: although St.-Germain is explicity described as being machine-gunned to death by three vigilante cops in a swank brothel (". . .a submachine gun blast nearly ripped off the head of Alexandre St.-Germain"; "The mobster's head and most of his neck had been savaged by the machine-gun volley. The body looked desecrated. . ."), before you know it this latter-day Moriarty is stepping unscathed out of an airplane. What gives? Authorial cheating, that's what—thinly glossed over with some mumbling later on about a "body double." Not that St.-Germain's ersatz death generated much suspense anyway, with subsequent action focusing on, among other items, the gory killings of assorted mob bosses by one of the vigilante cops, and Stef's viewing of pornographic tapes confiscated from that brothel. But readers generous enough to plod on will get to read about the newly Lazarus-ized St.-Germain's crass efforts to revitalize and consolidate the world's crime syndicates ("the Midnight Club"), Stef's predictable tumble for a sexy true-crime writer, and how (isn't one miracle enough for Patterson?) at book's end Stef walks again and gets to embrace a rogue cop who's murdered several people. Ironsides with a badge and a lobotomy.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1988

ISBN: 0446676411

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988

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