May attract a cult following, but most readers will lose patience with the tribes, gods, horses, weapons, visions, and herbs.

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DREAMING THE EAGLE

Turgid historical about Breaca (later named Boudica), the legendary warrior queen who defended Britain against Roman invaders in a.d. 43.

British writer Scott here follows No Good Deed (2002), a compelling, contemporary police procedural, with a prolix history of warrior Breaca and the Celtic tribes of Britain in the late pre-Roman Iron Age. In an author’s note, Scott acknowledges that scant details of Breaca and her times exist. Unfortunately, Scott compensates by creating this world with an overabundance of detail: her history becomes a scroll of arcana that lacks a strong, central narrative line to bring it into focus. Especially frustrating are the scores of difficult Celtic character names: a chart of the tribal families would be immensely helpful. The epic begins as a rival tribe slaughters Breaca’s pregnant mother, killing the unborn. Breaca is taken to live with another family, developing a close relationship with Ban, her half brother. The 14-year-old Breaca longs to be a “dreamer”—members of her Eceni tribe become “dreamers” or “warriors,” their role made manifest in dreams. The gods deem Breaca a “warrior,” which largely defines the extent of her characterization throughout as, red hair flaming, she charges forth, gleaming sword in hand, stilted dialogue at the ready. More compelling and dimensional is Ban, whose narrative clearly upstages Breaca’s. (Since the work is part of a projected trilogy, the next two volumes may correct this imbalance.) When a rival tribe ambushes the Eceni, Ban escapes to Gaul, where he becomes part of Caligula’s court. The clever, feisty Ban’s attempts to survive and go back to Britain momentarily bring the tale to vibrant life. Concluding chapters return to Britain, where Breaca and a slew of followers ward off the invading Roman hordes.

May attract a cult following, but most readers will lose patience with the tribes, gods, horses, weapons, visions, and herbs.

Pub Date: June 10, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-33670-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2003

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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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