The Rube Goldberg plot is rickety but relentless, and although most of the cast is excruciatingly familiar, it’s hard to...



Despite constant attempts by other gun-toting worthies to upstage it, Vinnie McCloskey-Schmidt’s head is indeed the centerpiece of this grisly criminal farce.

Chronic Long Island loser Johnnie LoDuco, two weeks out of stir, looks like he’s set to go back in when his car’s battery dies and he’s caught boosting a replacement vehicle. Before his court date rolls around, Johnnie runs into Bug Rankin, the public defender who once tried unsuccessfully to get him acquitted on obscenity charges, and two business associates who’ve just robbed a deli. When the cops pounce, they grab Johnnie along with the perps, who naturally finger him as the ringleader. Facing serious time, Johnnie’s delighted but suspicious when he’s bailed out, apparently by his old school buddy Vinnie, whose current partnership with disgraced Dr. Jennifer Smeals involves fleecing customers of a few measly cents on every transaction and setting up a corporation in Paraguay where Johnnie can “administrate” the proceeds. In a rare moment of insight, Johnnie reflects that “we made a great team, except for me.” Vinnie’s plan runs into a snag, literally, when Johnnie, idly fishing off the end of a pier, hooks his buddy’s severed head. And that’s all in the first 60 pages. Johnnie will soon be pursued by mobsters demanding their money (what money?), king-sized trigger-men, cops on the take and the Headhunter, a recovering serial killer who lives with his mom. Rookie novelist Lecard keeps the twists and turns coming, but since every lowlife who swims into view seems equally greedy, deceptive and demented, you may not care when Johnnie caroms from one to the next.

The Rube Goldberg plot is rickety but relentless, and although most of the cast is excruciatingly familiar, it’s hard to resist dim, sweet Johnnie, especially when he seems about to find true love.

Pub Date: March 13, 2007

ISBN: 0-312-36021-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Minotaur

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


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.


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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