Readers looking to bone up on the subject of Frankenfish with some homicide and espionage as the hushpuppies should find a...

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COUNTING ON TRUST

A NOVEL ABOUT THEFT OF RESEARCH, LOVING SEX, AND MURDER

A Chinese plot to steal an American company’s proprietary knowledge to make genetically modified fish spawns passion, spying, and murder among those caught in its currents.

In this novel, the scarred Chinese Gen. Zhou Xiaoping is revered by many in his home country, with his status placing him largely above most laws. But his desire to pursue Western-developed technologies has been hindered by skeptical bureaucrats. Intent on claiming Omniprotein, Inc.’s cutting-edge “Frankenfish” research, which boasts faster growing, heartier specimens and superior water filtration abilities, the general reaches out to an organization called The Long Beach group. This outfit enlists a sociopathic scientist and thief to relieve the U.S. company of its secrets and eliminate any witnesses. In the madman’s cross hairs are numerous Omniprotein employees as well as students at Nebraska State University (which has connections to the firm’s fish farm), all of them navigating attempts on their lives and fraught sexual liaisons. Meanwhile, John Liu, an Omniprotein founder, works tirelessly to help keep the theft and violence from harming the company abroad so that he can travel to China, where his long-estranged ex-wife lives. Powers (OrcaSpeak, 2013) meticulously details the academic and corporate culture, along with the impact biotechnology has on world hunger and environmental issues. But the characters often get enmeshed in the book’s tendency to emphasize teaching over storytelling, saddling the players with a lot of exposition and a very clinical manner of speaking. Eleanor Locke, the president of Omniprotein, splits her time between dealing with her company under siege and repairing her marriage after her husband’s recent surgery. But she spends far more energy cerebrally dissecting the loss of privacy in the age of social media. Gabriel Jordan, a teacher’s aide, and Selena Joyce Campbell, a biologist still recovering from being sexually assaulted, interact awkwardly even by the “charming but bungling STEM student” stereotype. In one of the tale’s clumsier exchanges, Gabriel, his mother, and Selena talk about AIDS testing. Despite interpersonal fumbling, spy games built around real-world emerging technologies still manage to sustain a protracted story’s intrigue.

Readers looking to bone up on the subject of Frankenfish with some homicide and espionage as the hushpuppies should find a lot to feast on here.

Pub Date: May 16, 2017

ISBN: 9781539033530

Page Count: 770

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2017

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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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Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

THINGS IN JARS

Lady detective Bridie Devine searches for a missing child and finds much more than she bargained for.

Bridie Devine is no stranger to the seedy underworld of Victorian London. An accomplished detective with medical training, she sometimes helps the police by examining bodies to determine the cause of death. Bridie recently failed to find a lost child, and when she’s approached about another missing child, the daughter of Sir Edmund Berwick, she isn’t enthusiastic about taking on the case. But Christabel Berwick is no ordinary child. Sir Edmund has hidden Christabel away her whole life and wants Bridie to believe this is an ordinary kidnapping. Bridie does a little digging and learns that Christabel isn’t his daughter so much as his prized specimen. Sir Edmund believes Christabel is a “merrow,” a darker and less romanticized version of a mermaid. Bridie is skeptical, but there are reports of Christabel’s sharp teeth, color-changing eyes, and ability to drown people on dry land. Given that Bridie’s new companion is a ghost who refuses to tell her why he’s haunting her, Bridie might want to open her mind a bit. There’s a lot going on in this singular novel, and none of it pretty. Bridie’s London is soaked with mud and blood, and her past is nightmarish at best. Kidd (Mr. Flood’s Last Resort, 2018, etc.) is an expert at setting a supernatural mood perfect for ghosts and merrows, but her human villains make them seem mundane by comparison. With so much detail and so many clever, Dickensian characters, readers might petition Kidd to give Bridie her own series.

Creepy, violent, and propulsive; a standout gothic mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2128-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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